Boston police are investigating the death of a homeless man whose body was found Friday morning in a playground at Joseph Moakley Park in South Boston across the street from a public housing development where the victim was well known among residents.
The man’s body was found near a swingset around 6:39 a.m., police said. The man had stab wounds to the torso, and investigators discovered a blood trail in the park, Boston Police Superintendent Bernard O’Rourke said. No arrests have been made, said Officer Jamie Kenneally, a Boston police spokesman.
Police didn’t release the name of the victim, but residents at the Mary Ellen McCormack development said they knew him as Dwight.
“I was just with him [Thursday] night,” said Amanda James, 22. “I prayed. I prayed that it wasn’t him. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
Investigators cordoned off portions of the park into three separate crime scenes, roping off the playground where the man was found, an adjacent soccer field, and an outdoor street hockey rink, where police photographed the interior.
While police were conducting their investigation, a man walked past crime scene tape and was confronted by police. Officers told the man, identified by police as Joseph McDonough, 28, of South Boston, to leave, but he did not comply. A struggle ensued and police say McDonough punched several officers and was arrested. Kenneally said McDonough is not connected to the death investigation.
Dwight’s friends said he sometimes went to the Woods-Mullen Shelter on Massachusetts Avenue but liked to sleep in the outdoor street hockey rink where investigators spent much of the day.
“He loved the outside,” said 61-year-old Willie Spann, who recalled watching Dwight pushing an orange Home Depot shopping cart near the rink Thursday morning.
Another woman who called herself a friend of the victim said Dwight approached her late Thursday night, told her he’d been robbed, and sought help getting his carriage back.
“I feel bad,” said the woman, who refused to give her name. “He asked me for help.” City parks close at 11:30 p.m. nightly unless otherwise noted.
“If there are homeless encampments, they’ll move them,” he said.
Dwight was known to spend time on park benches where Logan Way and Gavin Way meet in the Mary Ellen McCormack development. Residents remembered him for wearing a puppet on his right hand that looked like the gopher from “Caddyshack” and a red “Angry Birds” hat on his head.
They said Dwight once had a girlfriend who lived in the development, but the relationship soured and she found another partner. When that happened, they said Dwight made a sign that read “Big Foot stole my wife,” which he displayed when he panhandled.
He also continued to hang around the development, selling household items out of a shopping cart and singing songs such as the Sam Cooke tune “Cupid.”
“I’m shocked,” said Sharnell Davis, 28, who also knew Dwight.
An official at the Boston Housing Authority, which runs the Mary Ellen McCormack development, said Dwight had been given notice not to trespass on its grounds last month after a resident complained about him.
Bill McGonagle, the authority’s administrator, said Dwight returned to the property after the trespass order was issued and he was arrested. The incident occurred July 29, and Dwight was charged with trespassing, according to court papers filed at South Boston Municipal Court.
Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said some homeless people prefer to sleep outside during the summer months, despite entreaties frompolice and outreach workers urging them to stay in shelters.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” she said. “We want as many people as possible to come in off the streets.”
Ferrer said some homeless people might choose to sleep outside because they don’t want to be bound by shelter rules or security measures. ed: story can cut from here
This summer, however, she said more homeless people are using the city’s shelters. Woods-Mullen is always full and the Long Island Shelter is housing more than 400 people on average every night, Ferrer said.
“We truly try to get people in stable housing,” she said.John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.