TARPON SPRINGS — Consider the weight of death. Not the figurative burden of knowing that life ends, but the heavy physicality of a human body without breath or consciousness.
It is an unsettling thing to behold, and relatives of Eddie Dixon, a 73-year-old former city worker who police believe was murdered at a public housing complex Friday morning, were warned.
"I don't know if you guys want to see this," Damon Breton, chief investigator for the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner, told two of Dixon's children and their kin as they waited outside his apartment on Friday afternoon. "We're going to be bringing him out now."
Dixon's family members had pulled up patio chairs along the yellow tape demarcating the Tarpon Springs Police Department's crime scene. They nodded their understanding, but didn't move.
Officers then lugged Dixon, a Vietnam veteran who in his youth dreamed of playing professional baseball, out his front door in an opaque silver body bag. The bag sagged in the middle from his weight, and settled clumsily onto the gurney where it was placed.
His son and daughter folded in on themselves where they sat.
"Oh, Daddy," Dena Tingling, a 45-year-old Largo resident, wailed between her sobs.
Dixon was discovered by his caretaker just before 8 a.m. inside his apartment at North Ring Village, across the street from Tarpon Springs City Hall, police said. Detectives have not disclosed a suspected cause of death, but Tarpon Springs police Capt. Barb Templeton said the incident is being investigated as a homicide.
She said Dixon probably knew his killer.
"We don't think it was a random act. We don't think the public's in danger," Templeton said. "Most likely he knew the individual."
If that's true, those who knew him said, it is mystifying. They have a hard time imagining a person who would want to kill Eddie Dixon.
Dixon grew up in Tarpon Springs. After serving in Vietnam, he worked in the 1970s and 1980s for Tarpon Springs' public works department, city officials said. For years, he had been retired, living in a ground-floor apartment at North Ring Village, which is run by the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority.
He often sat outside, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and shouting greetings to those who passed. Sometimes he would get behind his walker and slowly work his way around the walkways of North Ring Village, administering a smile or joke to anyone who crossed his path.
How you doin' today, Pee-wee? Or, if the person he knew happened to be female, Get away, get away. I don't want no woman.
"He was a sweetheart," said Sara Triplett, 55, a neighbor who knew Dixon since she was a child. "That was uncalled for, whoever did that to him. If he had something they wanted, they could have asked him for it and he would have given it to them."
His children agreed.
"He'd give you the shirt off his back," Tingling said. "He done kept to himself."
But keeping to yourself doesn't necessarily keep you out of trouble these days at North Ring Village.
Out of concerns about security, housing managers had erected extra lights and security cameras in recent months. Police are hoping one of the cameras might have recorded Dixon's killer.
"That's what got him in trouble, was being giving," said his son, Leo Monroe, 46, of Holiday. "He didn't lock his doors at night. Not all the time. He trusted everybody."
When his caretaker discovered his corpse on Friday morning, police said, Dixon's door was unlocked, as it so often was.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.