LYNN — State troopers and local police are investigating a suspicious death at a popular city playground here where a burned body was found earlier Thursday.
The body was found at Frey Playground around 2:10 p.m. by a person walking a dog in city-owned park on Walnut Street, near Lynn Woods.
Officials did not release the gender or age of the body.
Investigators expect the identification of the body “will take time given the condition of the body,” said the Essex district attorney’s office in a statement.
The investigation, which is being conducted by State Police detectives and Lynn police, is ongoing.
At the playground Thursday night, investigators set up a large spotlight on the other side of a fence that bordered a baseball diamond.
The light illuminated the wooded side of a hill, and a handful of investigators could be seen standing near a van and a pair of benches on the third base side of the diamond, which police had cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape.
Farther up the third base line, inside the crime scene, four pick-up trucks and a sedan were parked. Nearby, swing sets and a basketball court sat unused in the darkness.
Later, individual investigators could be seen combing the hillside with flashlights, pointing their cones of light at a stand of trees or the dead leaves underfoot.
The killing comes just four months after a teenager’s body was discovered in another city park. The body of Herson Rivas, 17, was discovered in a wooded area of Henry Avenue Playground by a passerby on Aug. 2.
Federal authorities last week charged six members of the violent MS-13 street gang in connection with Rivas’s death.
Residents interviewed on Thursday night were dismayed by the grisly discovery in their neighborhood, which some described as the kind of place where people feel comfortable leaving their doors unlocked.
“It’s not something that happens around this neighborhood,” said Tiffany Sodabanh, 41, the owner of a nail salon. “It’s a very quiet, safe neighborhood. I’ve lived here since 2005, and never anything like that” has occurred.
Sodabanh admitted Thursday’s discovery made her “feel a little unsafe.”
“When I take my son to school, I don’t even lock my door -- my car door -- I don’t even lock my car . . . so I just really can’t imagine having someone getting murdered pretty much in my backyard,” she said.
Frey Playground is one of the city’s busiest parks, with basketball and tennis courts and baseball diamonds used for Little League and softball games.
Sodabanh said her 14-year-old son used to play in the park when he was young.
“The kids play baseball all the time, they have the basketball court there. I see people walking their dogs. In the summertime I occasionally go up there to jog.”
Patty Gardner, 67, a retired insurance agent, has lived in the neighborhood 40 years. Typically, the only traffic in the neighborhood is from residents.
The park gets a lot of use, she said, The Lynn Woods and Breeds Pond are nearby, which hikers and moutain bikers frequent.
Children, she said, go sledding in the wintertime on a slope that is located just to the right of where police had established a crime scene Thursday night.
“I can’t believe it happened at 2 o’clock,” said Gardner, who lives on Woodbury Avenue.
Later, she said, “That never happens here. Like I said, it’s quiet. The only people here are our neighbors. It’s extremely unusual.”
Dan Giasonno, a 45-year-old construction supervisor who lives around the corner from the park, said Thursday’s discovery was shocking. He described the neighborhood as “pretty quiet” but said the park sees a lot of action, particularly in the summertime, when it is host to softball and baseball games. Giasonna said the family dog, a 5-year-old black labrador named Boomer, gets walked through the park twice daily.
“Thank God my kids are grown up, but it’s definitely scary,” said Giasonna while walking Boomer on Oak Street Thursday night.
Charleen Kennedy, 50, said she has played on softball on the fields at the park for years.
“There’s never problems down here,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy’s sister, Maureen Casey, 58, said her 2-year-old twin granddaughters play at the park all the time. A babysitter was talking about bringing the girls down to the park on Thursday, she said.
“Thank God they didn’t,” her sister, Kennedy, said.Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.