TAMPA — To his neighbors, 60-year-old Elax Brown was a friendly man and retired veteran who liked to sit on the balcony of his second floor apartment and sip a cold beer.
To his youngest son, he was the man who taught him about God and how to stand up for his faith, but who failed in his last five years to keep in touch.
Deputies found Brown's body Wednesday morning in a storage closet off his balcony at the Cedar Trace Apartments, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
A medical examiner on Thursday determined Brown suffered what Callaway called "homicidal trauma." Callaway did not give any more detail about the manner of Brown's death.
Now, detectives are searching for whoever caused Brown's fatal injuries.
Brown's neighbors said they noticed a foul odor in the days leading up to the discovery.
"All the neighbors thought it was trash," said Brad Boston, 43, who lived downstairs from Brown. "Neighbors were complaining to the office."
Deputies searched Brown's apartment after someone called, concerned they hadn't seen him.
Callaway said detectives have interviewed Brown's roommate, whose name he wouldn't release. No suspects have been named.
Daisy Guzman, 35, said she noticed the smell on Monday or Tuesday and tried to disguise it by sprinkling carpet freshener on the breezeway floor and spraying Febreze in the air.
Guzman said she didn't even know that more than one person lived at the apartment next door.
Ken Brown, 38, said his father retired from the Army in 1987 and moved to Tampa in 1988, where he worked at James A. Haley VA Medical Center. He was also a minister who helped found Word of Deliverance ministry, although Ken Brown said his father was no longer involved with it.
State records show the ministry is now based in DeLand. Brown's ex-wife, Helen Brown, is its head.
Ken Brown, a professor and minister at Hope College in Holland, Mich., said his father fell out of touch with his two children after divorcing their mother in 2002. But he remembers him as someone who stood up for his faith.
When a neighbor once complained about a Bible study Elax Brown hosted at his house, the son recalled, Brown talked with each neighbor individually and was able to continue.
State records indicate Brown's only arrest was in 1998 for a traffic offense. Anyone with information is asked to call (813) 247-8200 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-873-8477.