LYNN — Frey Playground lies just south of Breeds Pond, surrounded on its other three sides by well-kept single-family homes, and offers areas to play baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis.
A house across the street has a plastic nativity scene in its modest front yard, accompanied by a cardboard snowman and Santa Claus. Next door, a festive evergreen wreath decorates a garage.
This is not, neighbors said, a place where anyone expects to find the burned remains of a body.
“It’s a real good area. We’ve never had any problems, break-ins or anything like that,” said Debbie Champigny, 63, who has lived across the street for 38 years.
The victim was identified as a 19-year-old man Friday night by the Essex district attorney’s office. His name was withheld, pending notification of his family.
Champigny and other neighbors were left reeling Thursday, after a dog walker found the burned body around 2 p.m. in a wooded area just northeast of the playground’s Alice O’Neil Baseball Diamond.
Early Friday morning, members of the State Police Special Emergency Response Team continued searching Frey Playground for evidence, said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman. The last police vehicle left the park just after 11 a.m.
Earlier, Blodgett’s office said identification would “take time given the condition of the body.”
The gruesome discovery came about four months after a teenager’s body was found in another Lynn park. The body of Herson Rivas, 17, was discovered Aug. 2 in a wooded area of Henry Avenue Playground. Federal authorities last week charged six members of the violent MS-13 street gang in connection with Rivas’s death.
At Frey Playground on Friday, up a hilly path through the trees between the baseball diamond and the pond, a tree trunk segment several feet long was blackened with soot. Near the tree’s base, white ash formed a pattern like the scales of a reptile.
Authorities haven’t said whether the body was burned there or somewhere else.
Champigny visited the site early Friday afternoon to leave a bouquet of flowers for the dead, struggling to understand how a fire might have burned there, so near her home, without anyone seeing the flames or smelling the smoke.
“I’m here every night,” she had said earlier, looking to the park from her front porch, “and I even have the window cracked.”
Another neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he was shocked that a body was found only about 50 yards from his home, which abuts the park and has several windows facing the area where the body was found.
“This is a like a black eye to our neighborhood. This is a great place to live,” said the man, a resident for 13 years.
Teenagers sometimes park along the Oak Street side of the park to drink or to smoke marijuana, the man said, and some of them climb the hill to hang out on the concrete barriers covered with graffiti and rock outcropping near its peak. But in recent weeks, he hasn’t even seen that.
“It’s been cold,” he said, “so nobody’s been hanging out there lately.”
The park is busy with sports in the summer, residents said, but used little in winter.
“It’s pretty quiet here. It’s usually just guys with their dogs,” said Mark Casey, 48, of Lynn, as he walked Leo, a pug/miniature pinscher mix. “The most you might see is kids [who] look like they’re skipping school.”