MASCOUTAH — Neighbors of a man who found murdered in his home said they can't make sense of how someone who tried to help a troubled young man could be viciously murdered, possibly by the person he was trying to help.
Police said Richard A. Feldt, 59, of 711 E. Church St., was found dead on the living room floor of his modest, yet meticulously maintained, white frame home Monday evening. When officers found the body, they discovered a 23-year-old man who lived with Feldt because he had nowhere else to go lounging on the living room sofa only a few feet away.
Police said Feldt appeared to have been dead for more than 24 hours when he was found.
According to Mascoutah Police Chief Bruce Fleshren, Feldt died of multiple stab wounds. Investigators, however, are waiting for the results of an autopsy before asking for charges against the 23-year-old man who was found with the body. Fleshren said it will probably be Wednesday morning before police meet with prosecutors. The suspect is still in custody.
Neighbor Donald Kopp said he feared the worst when an ambulance showed up as police opened Feldt's house. But he was shocked to hear officers shout to the suspect to surrender to police. He said at that point he quickly deduced who the police were talking to because the victim and the suspect have had problems over the years.
Friend Rick McCartney said Feldt knew the suspect because the younger man lived across the street when he was growing up and Feldt looked out for him.
About three years ago when the suspect got in some legal trouble due to drugs, McCartney said Feldt sold his beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle to bail him out and get the young man back on the right path.
"He had a heart of gold," McCartney said of Feldt. "He'd give you anything he could to help you out. It's a shame that someone who was so good to people had it come back on him."
Feldt owned a painting company and gave the suspect work as his assistant, Kopp said.
"He told that kid if he kept himself right that he was going to give him the business today," Kopp said. "That's the kind of guy he was."
Throughout the day Tuesday, police officers took turns guarding the house where Feldt lived. The suspect, who had lived with the victim off and on for three years, had been at the home about two weeks during this latest stint, Fleshren said.
Police got a call about 8:30 p.m. Monday from people concerned that they hadn't seen Feldt since Thanksgiving. When they arrived, they found the victim's truck in the driveway but no one answered when they knocked on the door.
Some officers began to look around town for Feldt -- and for a young man they knew the victim took into his home as a favor -- while others tried to find a key to get into the house.
Fleshren said the suspect didn't try to resist and he didn't seem to be in an agitated state.
"He was just sitting there looking like he was sorry for what he had done," Fleshren said of the suspect's reaction when police entered the house. "He apparently decided he wasn't going to run and just waited there to get caught."
Fleshren said that the suspect has not confessed or accepted responsibility for Feldt's death.
The victim and the suspect regularly went to the Mascoutah Phillips 66, according to store manager Crystal Conklin, to buy cigarettes.
Conklin said the suspect has had problems with heroin in the past. The victim took the suspect into his house at various times over the last few years. At one point the suspect, his girlfriend and his 2-year-old child lived at the small house with Feldt in a room he built on the back of his home.
Conklin said she hadn't seen Feldt since Wednesday. But the suspect came into the store Monday morning -- while the victim was apparently lying dead back at his house -- to ask for a cigarette.
"I asked him how Rick was doing and he said he was fine," Conklin said. "He seemed perfectly normal."
Kopp said he was suspicious Monday when he saw the suspect driving Feldt's white Ford pickup truck. While he gave the young man a place to live, money and other assistance, Kopp said Feldt didn't allow the suspect to drive his truck.
While he has slipped up in the past, the suspect didn't seem like he had been having problems lately, Conklin said.
Some neighbors said they sometimes heard the victim and suspect arguing, allegedly over the suspect's drug use.
Neighbor Rachel Schwentker said she has lived two doors down from Feldt since moving from Kansas City a couple of months ago, so she didn't know him well. While she didn't hear sounds of shouting or violence, she said her family heard loud crying coming from the direction of the victim's home on Sunday.
The only house between Schwentker's and Feldt's is vacant and Feldt's home is the last one at the end of a dead end street, so the victim's home is the only place it could have come from.
Mascoutah Mayor Gerald Daugherty said he had met Feldt on a couple of occasions and was sadden by the news of his passing.
"People are shocked to hear about something like this in their community," Daugherty said. "I think they know that it was an isolated incident. But it's terrible whenever something like this happens.
Police said this is the first murder in Mascoutah in five or six years and the previous one was a drive-by shooting in which an innocent bystander was the victim.
Perhaps the most-famous murder to happen in the Mascoutah area in the past three decades was that of a young couple who were killed for $40 because the killer wanted to buy beer.
Charles Walker, of Fayetteville, came upon a young couple on the afternoon of June 18, 1983, who were fishing on Silver Creek about a half-mile west of Mascoutah. Out of money and thirsty for beer, Walker decided to rob the couple.
But 21-year-old Kevin Paule, of Lenzburg, recognized Walker as he was stealing the money from Paule's wallet. Walker then fatally shot Paule, a janitor, and his fiance, Sharon Winker, 25, of Mascoutah, a day-care worker and daughter of the Mascoutah city treasurer. He then fled in their car into Mascoutah to get more beer.
Seven years after he committed the double murder, Walker was captured, confessed to the murders and was put to death by lethal injection in 1990.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.