AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police believe the victim in an east Austin murder was beaten to death with a fireplace poker and strangled by his roommate.
Detectives say Dijon Reid, who was found Tuesday after crashing the victim’s vehicle into gravestones at a southwest Austin cemetery, confessed to the crime.
A friend who had not heard from the victim, 59-year-old Charles Peterson III, went to check on him at his home on Aug. 31 in the 7500 block of Berkman Drive, near the intersection of Cameron Road and East Anderson Lane.
The friend opened the unlocked front door and found things in disarray and bloody khaki pants in the bathroom sink, as well as splattered blood on the master bedroom curtains. He told police he could smell a strong odor and found the body of his friend underneath a pile of clothes and framed photos in the master bedroom.
At around 12:43 p.m., the friend called 911 and first responders rushed to the home. Austin-Travis County EMS medics pronounced Peterson dead at the scene.
Detectives say that Peterson’s cell phone was missing from the home, and family members had received unusual messages that seemed to come from someone other than Peterson.
A sex offender card with the name of Peterson’s roommate, 27-year-old Dijon Reid, was found inside, along with a parole officer’s card. Detectives noticed the fireplace poker was missing and then found it in a gym bag in the master bedroom closet with a broken handle.
Investigators say it was bent in a way to suggest it had struck an object, and the cuts to the victim’s head appeared consistent with injuries from a fireplace poker.
An autopsy on Aug. 1 determined the death to be a homicide by strangulation and blunt force.
In a separate incident, police were called to a crash at 6300 W. William Cannon Dr., at the Cook Walden Funeral Home, where a vehicle belonging to Peterson crashed into tombstones. The driver got out and left the ignition running. Both used and unused beer cans were found inside the vehicle.
A check made out to Reid for $400 was also found in the car, signed with the victim’s name, but not the same handwriting. Blood was found on the front passenger seat, along with a receipt from Dillard’s at North Star Mall in San Antonio using the victim’s debit card.
Police issued an arrest warrant for Reid on Sept. 1 for failure to comply with sex offender registration. He was found on Tuesday in the 5800 block of Manor Road near Rogge Lane and taken into custody.
Detectives say Reid had Peterson’s wallet in his back pocket. Reid’s arrest affidavit does not include a possible motive.
The victim’s family issued a statement saying Peterson III owned Austin City Properties and had lived in Austin since 1993. “We also want to thank the Austin Police Department for their attention to our son’s case, and for swiftly bringing an arrest,” said the family.