SPRING HILL — Deputies had a 21-year-old man in custody Monday after his brother's body was found buried in the side yard of the family home, Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent said.
The remains have been identified as 19-year-old Sean Eckard.
Nugent said that about 3 a.m. Saturday, Stanley Elias Eckard's mother, Donna Eckard, saw him digging a hole in the side yard of their home at 8456 Peoria St. When she asked him what he was doing, Stanley Eckard said he was burying his ex-girlfriend's clothes because he was tired of seeing them, Nugent said.
Sean Eckard hadn't been seen since Friday. When he didn't come home Saturday, Sunday or even Monday morning, his older sister urged her father, Samuel Eckard, to check out the hole in the side yard.
"He uncovered the arms and legs of his son and then collapsed," Nugent said. "This is an absolutely bizarre case."
The family immediately called 911. Stanley Eckard was being held for questioning Monday afternoon, and no other information was available.
On Monday evening, Christian Quinones, 18, stood in his mother's yard across the street from the Eckard home with a distraught look on his face. His family also owns the house behind the Eckard home, and Quinones lived there starting in the eighth grade until his sophomore year.
Quinones said he used to play video games with the brothers, both of whom attended Springstead High School. Stanley dropped out first, then Sean, said Quinones.
"They fought a lot, but it was always just play," Quinones said.
Sean suffered a severe brain condition that left him in a coma for more than a year, Quinones said. He recovered late last year, though he'd lost all the bulk he once carried. Sean worked with Quinones doing maintenance at the Texas Roadhouse in Brooksville for a while but had to stop because he would often get ill.
"His immune system was shot," Quinones said.
Quinones said his brother was even closer to the Eckard brothers but stopped hanging out after Stanley "started doing a bunch of bad stuff."
Stanley Eckard had a penchant for martial arts and used to collect swords, Quinones said.
"Sean was a really nice kid," he said. "Their parents are really nice people. I just can't believe it."
Carlos Altamirano, Quinones' cousin, lives nearby. He said sometimes things would get rowdy at the Eckard house and every once in a while he'd hear arguments, but nothing that caused serious concern.
Altamirano shared the same look of shock as his other neighbors who learned of what officials say happened in a corner house in the quiet neighborhood of tidy homes just north of Spring Hill Drive.
"Your own brother!" Altamirano said. "And to try to bury him in the yard? It's hard to believe."
Law enforcement was on the scene Monday afternoon and will resume excavating the body Tuesday when daylight returns, authorities said.
Nugent said neither son had previous contact with law enforcement.
Laura J. Nelson can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or at email@example.com.