W-B Homeowner Found Stabbed In Back; No Arrests
WILKES-BARRE — Police checking on the welfare of a man whose dog was found running loose early Friday found the owner stabbed in the back and slumped over in a pool of blood in his own home, according to a search warrant application filed in court.
The homeowner, Fred J. Boote Jr., 58, was found dead in a second floor bedroom of his South Wilkes-Barre home at 14 Donald Court. Police said the room where he died was in disarray, as though there had been a struggle, and that it appeared someone had tried to set the body on fire prior to its discovery.
According to the warrant, police were dispatched to the Turkey Hill Mini Market at 632 Carey Ave. around 3:20 a.m. to a report of a stray dog. After calling the number on the dog’s tag and getting no answer, a police officer brought to the animal to the listed address.
Upon arriving at the home, the officer found the front door slightly ajar and saw multiple lights on inside. The cop rang the doorbell several times but got no answer, so he called for backup.
Police entered the home and saw blood on a tile foyer and saw drops of blood on the floor of the home’s first level, the warrant says. The back patio door was slightly open, and an interior door leading to the garage was wide open, with the garage light left on, according to the warrant.
In the kitchen, items from under the sink had been removed and thrown around on the floor, police said.
While clearing the second-floor of the home, police saw a body hunched over in a puddle of blood and a large kitchen knife that was also covered in blood, the warrant says.
There was blood on the comforter of a bed, and items had been moved around the room as though there had been a struggle, police said.
Police also saw a red gas can in the room, which had a spout that police found partially under the body. The body also had a blanket draped over it that appeared to have been partially burned, police said.
A police officer who knew Boote recognized him as the victim, and police noted that he had a large stab wound to the lower right side of his back. The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office officially declared Boote dead at 9:45 a.m.
The warrant, signed by Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker, gives police permission to search Boote’s cellphone, which police recovered near the crime scene on Willow Street after Boote’s son pinged it. The warrant says Boote’s phone was actually registered on his son’s Verizon account.
Police are seeking call information, text messages, photos and other data that they say could be “highly relevant” to the murder investigation.
Court records show Boote had a number of traffic tickets over the years, but only one criminal case — a resisting arrest conviction stemming from a driving under the influence case in Columbia County in 2005.
Friends and neighbors who converged alongside the crime scene described Boote as a good man who had several grown children.
“Fred was a very close friend of our family and I’m still in shock. I just can’t get over it,” Jim Elias said. “Fred was one of the nicest guys you would want to meet, friendly with everybody. To me it’s just unbelievable that something like this would happen.”
Neighbor Pam Monka said the sudden and mysterious death of a longtime neighbor has got the community on edge.
“I’m nervous because I don’t know if it was a stranger,” she said. “Keep your doors locked.”
Wilkes-Barre police Cmdr. Joe Coffay, the acting police chief, said police were not immediately seeking anyone in connection with the death.