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Police: Accelerant used to burn body in W. Manchester

Liz Evans Scolforo
505-5429/@LizScolforoYD
  • Police urge anyone who was in the area between Jan. 4 and 4:45 a.m. Jan. 5 to call them.
  • Reach police during normal business hours at 717-792-9514 or 717-792-2679. Or call 911 at any time.

Juan Acevedo DeJesus had no known ties to York County — no family, no friends, no work connection. Police don't know why he was fatally shot and his body partially burned and, perhaps as importantly, why it happened here.

"This remains a mystery," said Detective Sgt. Jeff Snell of West Manchester Township Police. "We don't know why Juan Acevedo DeJesus was in York."

And that's why they need people to come forward with anything they might have seen or heard, he said, even if they don't think it's worth mentioning.

Det. Sgt. Jeff Snell of West Manchester Township Police holds a photography of Juan Acevedo DeJesus of Philadelphia who's burning body was found along Hokes Mill Rd. a week ago.  Friday, January 13, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

DeJesus, 23, of Potter Street in Philadelphia, was fatally shot multiple times. At some point after he was killed, someone tried to torch his body, which was found by a passer-by about 4:45 a.m. Jan. 5 in a field at the corner of Hokes Mill and Old Salem roads, according to Snell.

The body was about 15 feet off the road, he said.

"There was accelerant used to burn the body," Snell said, but that substance has not yet been identified.

The upper and mid-section parts of the victim's body were burned by the time officers responded to the scene and put out the flames with an extinguisher, according to the detective.

DeJesus was positively identified using his fingerprints, Snell said.

"Let's face it — it was a horrible crime," the detective said.

Not ritualistic: He declined to speculate why the victim's body was set afire, but noted that fire is certainly used sometimes to destroy evidence. He confirmed there "was nothing ritualistic" about the killing.

West Manchester Township investigators don't yet know whether DeJesus was killed at the site, or killed elsewhere and his body dumped in the field, Snell said.

The body of Juan Acevedo DeJesus of Philadelphia was found burning along Hokes Mill Rd. in West Manchester Township a week ago. Police are asking for the public's help to solve his murder. Submitted Photo

Asked whether police found evidence at Hokes Mill Road besides the victim, Snell declined to answer in detail.

"There's always evidence left at a crime scene," he said. "I'll just leave it at that."

Also attending the news conference was York County District Attorney Tom Kearney, who urged people to contact police if they were in the area where the body was found before 5 a.m. Jan. 5 and even back to the night before.

"We are trying to develop a timeline of Mr. DeJesus' whereabouts ... (and) seeking any known ties Mr. DeJesus may have had with our York community," Kearney said. "We'd like to establish why he was in York County."

Snell noted there could have been criminal activity in the area "well before" the body was set afire.

Targeted: Kearney and Snell conceded there is much about the case they can't yet discuss publicly.

But Snell did say he believes the victim was targeted.

DeJesus came to the United States from Puerto Rico seven or eight years ago and has family in that territory and in Philadelphia, Snell said.

"There's nothing at this point to suggest Puerto Rico has anything to do with (the homicide)," he said.

DeJesus rented a room in Philadelphia, but didn't always stay there.

"He had a girlfriend he stayed with from time to time," Snell said.

Police determined that DeJesus worked a variety of odd jobs, including detailing vehicles and driving a tow truck, according to the detective.

Not a criminal: The victim had no criminal history to speak of. Snell said Philadelphia Police had lodged a charge against the man at one point; but he declined to say what that charge was.

Township police continue to chase leads and are working with Philadelphia Police to try to solve the homicide, Snell said.

West Manchester Township Police investigate a suspicious death along Hokes Mill Road, Thursday January 5, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Officers handed out fliers to drivers and passers-by on Hokes Mill Road, urging them to think about what they might have seen in the area and giving them numbers to contact police.

"A number of people indicated they were on their way to work and too busy to speak with us at that time," but said they would call police later, Snell said. "We feel as if some of these people haven't called us."

He urged them and anyone else to contact police if they were in the area of Hokes Mill and Old Salem roads the night of Wednesday, Jan. 4, and before 4:45 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 5.

Reach township police during normal business hours at 717-792-9514 or 717-792-2679. Or call 911 at any time.

Tipsters also can go through York County Crime Stoppers, police said. All calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential, and callers don't have to give their names to collect cash rewards. Call them at 717-755-TIPS or leave at tip online at yorkcountycrimestoppers.org.

"We're dealing with very dangerous suspects," Snell said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

Det. Sgt. Jeff Snell of West Manchester Township Police holds a photograph of murder victim Juan Acevedo DeJesus of Philadelphia, Friday, January 13, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo