Police identify man found dead in apartment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A man who was found dead in an apartment at the Oaks of Durkeeville Tuesday afternoon after a small fire inside has been identified.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identified the man as 53-year-old Andrew Jerome Stephens.

Around 2 p.m., Stephens' daughter went to a maintenance man at the apartment and asked him to check on her father as she had not heard from him in a while, according to JSO Sgt. T.K. Waters.

The front door of the apartment was locked, but the back door was unlocked. Smoke was found coming from the back door of the apartment.

"I'm just hurt. I'm just really hurt," said neighbor Natasha Paige.

Jeaena Owens, who also lives nearby, knew Stephens.

"He doesn't bother anybody. He's basically a loving guy," she said.

Waters said detectives suspect foul play in the man's death, but it is not known if the fire and the man's death are linked. Police are still investigating the incident.

Anita Stephens is a daughter of Andrew Jerome.

"It's painful, it's your father, the person who has been there for you since day one. You would never expect that," she said.

Stephens described her father's personality.

"He was just a God-fearing person. He loved the Lord. He just loved Him. He preached at his church. He was there for everybody."

Andrew Stephens, Jr., also talked about his father.

He said "it hurts," and that the family "is trying to find out what's going on."

Andrew Jr. described his father as "a good man" and as someone who was "hard working" and "loved his family."

Adrelynn Thomas is Andrew Jerome Stephens' oldest daughter.

"Right now, we just want to catch the person that did it," she said.

First Coast News asked her if she thought the fire at her father's home was deliberately set.

"Of course. Yes it was," Thomas said. "Someone did it. Because his trunk was missing as well."

Andrew Jerome Stephens' nephew, Tony, told FCN he "hopes justice is served."

Family and a church member tell FCN that Stephens served as chairman deacon at the Pentecostal Church of God.

People said he'd been a member for decades and was dedicated.

Paige said Stephens would help "the elderly and take them to therapy appointments or doctor's appointments."

No suspects in the man's death have been identified at this time, Waters said.


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