Friend of Long Beach man: 'You can't throw somebody away' - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Friend of Long Beach man: 'You can't throw somebody away'

Long Beach Police charged Christy Lee Zarella, 63, with Tampering with Physical Evidence and Failure to Report a Death. (Photo source: LBP) Long Beach Police charged Christy Lee Zarella, 63, with Tampering with Physical Evidence and Failure to Report a Death. (Photo source: LBP)
Miller's body was found in a backyard on Oct. 22. (Photo source: Family) Miller's body was found in a backyard on Oct. 22. (Photo source: Family)
The trash where investigators found Miller's body. (Photo source: WLOX News) The trash where investigators found Miller's body. (Photo source: WLOX News)
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    A missing person investigation takes a tragic turn in Long Beach Thursday afternoon. Police said a body was found in a backyard off Seal Avenue. And one person has been arrested in connection with what officers are now calling a homicide investigation. Investigators claim a foul smell led officers to the man's body.More >>
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  • TIMELINE: Long Beach Police discover body in backyard

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    While following up on an initial missing persons report, Long Beach Police discovered the body of 84-year-old Edward A. Miller on October 22, 2015.More >>
    While following up on an initial missing persons report, Long Beach Police discovered the body of 84-year-old Edward A. Miller on October 22, 2015.More >>
LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) -

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said the man found dead in a garbage can in his backyard on Seal Avenue has been identified as Edward A. Miller.

Investigators say the 87-year-old Long Beach man had been dead for several weeks.

However, how Miller died remains a mystery. 

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove and crime scene investigators spent Friday doing a second search and gathering evidence inside and outside of Miller's house. 

Police say they were investigating a missing elderly man when during a follow-up investigation at the man’s residence on Thursday when officers detected a foul odor coming from the backyard. Police obtained a search warrant for the property, and Investigators located the decomposing body. 

Donna Near, who says she filed the missing person report, is trying to come to terms with the death of her beloved friend.

"He was a great person. A great neighbor," said Near. "If your car broke down, he would fix your car and tell you to take his car for the week." 

Near says she hadn't seen Miller for a few weeks when she noticed something suspicious.  

"I came back into town and I noticed his shed was torn down. He was an avid shed person. He was out in the shed fixing cars or fixing something. It was his solace," said Near. "And then I saw a neighbor who said they'd had a yard sale and all his clothes and shoes were for sale. He would never do that." 

Near showed WLOX News text messages she sent to Miller's sister in Oklahoma asking for permission to go to the police. With the sister's blessing, Near went to authorities on Monday to file a missing person's report.

Then on Thursday, she drove past her friend's house as investigators walked the property. 

"I saw detectives in the backyard and I already knew. And when I came up, the detective asked me not to come over and said I probably didn't want to be there. " said Near. "But I already knew." 

Christy Lee Zarrella, 63, who authorities said was a friend of Miller's and was living in the house with him, has been charged with tampering with evidence and failure to report a death to the medical examiner.

"Some people don't even know their neighbors, but I knew him and he was our family," said Near. "And somebody threw him away. You can't throw somebody away." 

According to the Harrison County  corner, an autopsy has been performed, but the medical examiner has not ruled on how Edward Miller died.

For now, this is considered a suspicious death that is being investigated as a homicide. 

To view a timeline of the investigation, click here.

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