Man arrested for gruesome murder of Korean War veteran

Thomas Sims, an 18-year-old already awaiting trial in connection with an armed carjacking earlier this year, is charged in the killing of 85-year-old Gene Emory Dacus. (JEFFERSON COUNTY JAIL)

An 85-year-old Korean War veteran suffered a gruesome death at the hands of his 18-year-old neighbor.

Gene Emory Dacus was found burned to death in the back yard of his North Birmingham, Alabama home.

Police responded to a call of a man on fire at around 12:30 AM Wednesday morning.  Upon arrival, they found Dacus on the ground in a back yard with severe burns, according to

Witnesses reported seeing the fire in Dacus’ backyard and a man running in a nearby alley with a red gasoline jug.  Police apprehended Thomas Sims, who matched witness descriptions, not far from the crime scene.

“The suspect actually confessed to this crime but we have not received any logical justification to explain what happened,” said Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper.

According to Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Sean Edwards, a preliminary investigation suggests Dacus and Sims had an argument before Dacus was doused in gasoline and set on fire.

“To me, what he did to that elderly gentleman is evil at it’s finest,” said Edwards.

“This homicide shocks the conscience of any reasonable person. Our hearts are hurting for the victim, his family and our community,” said Roper.

Dacus’ son, Gary, said his father was a Georgia native who was in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War. After his discharge, Dacus became an airplane mechanic, first for Drummond Aircraft and then Lockheed Martin.

Gene Emory Dacus
Gene Emory Dacus

According to Gary, Sims hit Dacus on the head, left the scene and later returned to set him on fire in an attempt to conceal the crime.  Gary Dacus said, “[Sims] should never be able to walk the face of the earth again.” “My father’s death is a tragic loss,” he said. “The community lost one of its pillars.”

Sims, was already awaiting trial for unrelated carjacking charges from earlier this year, was charged with capital murder. He is being held without bond.

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