Police who found a man's dismembered body outside a vacant house, with the head and an arm stuffed into a trash bag and the rest of his remains in a backyard next door, arrested his best friend Monday for murder.
Neighbors and family members say the two men had been best friends for years and a possible argument over money might have led to the slaying.
The body of Marlon Thomas, 35, was found about 7 p.m. Sunday in the backyard of a fenced, burned home in Houston's Fifth Ward, a historically black neighborhood east of downtown.
Police said Thomas' friend, Noe Morin, 32, who lived in an apartment in the home next door, killed him. They took Morin into custody Sunday night and charged him Monday afternoon. Online court records did not indicate he had an attorney.
Thomas' head and an arm were found in a black trash bag behind the home where Morin was staying with a family friend. A chainsaw was next to the bag, which was behind cinderblocks that supported the home. The rest of Thomas' body, with a partially severed arm, was found in a backyard next door that was full of overgrown weeds and trash.
"That's his best friend for over 20 years," said Thomas' sister, Tonya Dangerfield, after she tied a bouquet of purple and silver birthday balloons to the chain link fence that surrounded the backyard where her brother's body was found. She said her brother would have turned 36 on June 9. "Why did (Morin) do that? Why would you do something like this?
An autopsy has been ordered and a cause of death is still pending for Thomas.
Mae Land, 87, who lived in the two-bedroom apartment with Morin said he was a friend of her late son and had been staying with her about four months. Thomas also would stay there from time to time. Both men paid Land some money to help with the rent.
Neighbors said the two men would often be found sitting on the front steps of the apartment located in a brown row house.
"Every single day, they were out there," said Brittney Johnson, who lived in the apartment next door. She added that sometimes the two men would be joined by Morin's sons, who were visiting their father. "That's why it's really so shocking because they were friends."
Land said she is in the process of moving out of the apartment and was not there most of this past weekend.
Crystal Burks, who lives across the street, said Morin was known "to have a temper." She said she and other neighbors heard the two men arguing Saturday night and later heard gunshots.
"Gun shots, we hear that every day so we didn't pay that much attention," Burks said.
While neighbors said the two men might have had a falling out over money, police wouldn't comment on a motive.
While police found a chainsaw next to the bag with some of Thomas' remains, Burks and other neighbors said they never heard a chainsaw being used during the weekend.
Burks called 911 and Johnson's husband went to investigate the backyard next door after people in the neighborhood, which is made up of older row houses and newly built townhomes, started saying there might be a body there.
Johnson said after police arrived, she saw one officer open a bag in a trash can in Land's backyard and then exclaim, "Oh my God, it's the head."
"I've never seen anything like that in my life. It was like I was watching an episode of 'The First 48' right before my eyes," Johnson said, referring to a reality cable show that follows the first 48 hours of homicide investigations.
Dangerfield said her brother was a good person who worked in construction.
"He didn't deserve to get this done to him," she said.