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Dead man was last seen patroling neighborhood

Police are investigating the death of a 71-year-old man found lying outside his mobile home Tuesday afternoon.

Detectives say the death of Robert Ditton, who lives on lot 616 in Lake Shore Park at 800 32nd Avenue S, is suspicious. They are investigating it as a homicide until they receive more information from medical examiners, said police spokesman Bill Proffitt.

A worker at Lake Shore mobile home park discovered Ditton's body beside his trailer about 1 p.m. Tuesday. Ditton suffered upper body trauma, police said.

Neighbors said they last saw Ditton on Monday night, when he was patrolling the mobile home park as part of the neighborhood crime watch. Several said they heard a loud bang about 7 p.m., possibly a gunshot. They described Ditton as a good neighbor who lived alone in the park for more than four years.

Past president of the homeowners association, Ditton made headlines in 2000 after he accidentally fell into a drain pipe and was mauled by a 10-foot alligator. He had been trying to help rangers locate the alligator, trapped for days in a narrow pipe.

State records show Ditton was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon in 2001, and pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. Adjudication was withheld in the case, county records show.