Deanna Yardas wasn’t sure at first what she was hearing, so she paused and listened. It sounded like wailing.
She stepped outside onto her front porch to investigate. The pitiful sound was coming from next door. Yardas hurried over and found a man lying on the sidewalk leading up to 27 Cherry St. He was weeping.
“I think someone broke into Steve’s house and killed him,” the man cried, according to Yardas.
Confused and scared, Yardas tried to get more information from the man. He asked her to quit asking questions. She glanced at her neighbor’s front door.
“There’s no way I was going to go into that house,” Yardas recalled Tuesday afternoon.
Minutes later, around 1:30 p.m., a fire rescue vehicle turned down narrow, brick-lined Cherry Street to check on the situation. Police were not far behind.
Police Chief George Turner said Tuesday that they found a dead man inside 27 Cherry St. and his death is considered suspicious. He named the deceased as Steven Floyd Van Slyke, 58.
By the time students began walking home from nearby Hernando High School, police had roped off the two-story tan house with yellow crime scene tape. Forensics technicians gathered on a porch populated by rocking chairs and accented by slender white columns.
Yardas had few conversations with her neighbor in the 15 years she’s lived on Cherry Street, but they always said “hello.” Van Slyke operated a property appraising business out of his home, Yardas said. She placed his age at mid-50s.
Van Slyke had friends, but he “kept to himself,” Yardas said.
One thing she found curious on Tuesday is that Van Slyke’s car was missing from the driveway. Police are searching for that car now, described as a gold 2004 Volvo with Florida tag 163 KIV.
The man who apparently discovered the body said the last time he spoke with Van Slyke was Tuesday morning around 10:30 a.m., according to Yardos.
Across the street, neighbor Faye Rosser estimated Van Slyke had lived at that home for 30 years.
She stood on her porch, arms crossed to ward off the cold, and watched crime scene technicians set to work.
“This is ordinarily a real quiet street,” she said.
Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or [email protected]