Assailants forced their way into a home east of Seaford over the weekend, shot someone dead then set the building on fire, Delaware State Police say.
Seaford Fire Department was called to the home on the 11000 block of Hastings Farm Road not far from the Middleford Speedway around 2 a.m. Sunday, police said. When firefighters put out the blaze, they found a 39-year-old dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
Police were called to the scene and shut down Hastings Farm Road for about seven hours on Sunday.
The state police homicide unit’s theory is that multiple people forced their way in through a side door and fired shots at the victim, who was hit by one of the bullets and fell on the living room floor. The attackers then set a fire in the living room and fled, police say.
Police don’t know who the attackers were, and have turned the body over to the Division of Forensic Science for an autopsy. They have not identified the victim, pending notification of family.
A Google aerial photo of the area included in the press release on Sunday from state police could be read as showing Middleford Speedway, but the location pin in the image is just part of Google maps showing the site of the track. The actual location is a double-wide just to the southwest of the speedway.
On a cool and sunny fall morning Monday, the neighborhood was quiet and peaceful. Fire damage could be seen on the residence, especially on the front door, but passersby could easily miss it if they weren't looking for it. Along the road in front of the house, a neighborhood watch sign warned that residents would report all suspicious activity to police.
A neighbor who did not want to give his name said this incident "came out of left field." He's lived in the neighborhood several years and hasn't had trouble. He said he didn't know the victim well, but they would wave when they saw each other.
"Everything about it's just very, very weird."
About 1:45 a.m. Sunday is when emergency workers started showing up, he said. He saw a bunch of smoke coming from the back of the house, but firefighters put it out quickly. "They weren't in the house but 15 minutes," he said.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Detective Bluto at 302-752-3864.
There was another shooting nearby a few years ago, but it wasn't fatal and it's not clear if it involved residents. Police reported that a driver shot at another vehicle on Coverdale Road north of the intersection with Hastings Farm Road on Jan. 20, 2019. The vehicle that took gunfire crashed and a 36-year-old man and 35-year-old woman were taken to the hospital with "non-life threatening injuries," per Delaware State Police.
There have been several deaths from shootings in the area this year, most in or around Seaford further to the west, according to state police. One was a man shot dead in Mobile Gardens community in January. In March, a woman died after she was shot by a state trooper on Danny Drive in Seaford. Police said she had threatened an officer with a gun. In June, a man was found fatally wounded on East 4th Street in Blades.
More recently toward the beaches, a 55-year-old Ocean View woman was found dead in a home from a gunshot wound on Oct. 21, police said. They arrested a 38-year-old Hebron, Maryland man in that case, based on witness descriptions of him and his vehicle.