Deb Hart would see the late 23-year-old Curtis Dickens a few times every week, and as a neighbor on 18th street in Rockford, she considered him a friend.
"Always saw him out on the porch, usually talking on the cell phone. If I'd wave, he'd wave back always, had a nice smile to give me," Hart said.
But now, those smiles from Hart are gone, and replaced with shock a day after her neighbor turned up dead inside his home. Investigators spent Wednesday afternoon searching for clues on who stabbed Dickens to death, and started a fire inside. Hart says the crime makes her feel less safe on her own street.
"It's always been a nice neighborhood, so hopefully this was just something random and we won't have to be scared for long," Hart said.
Neighbors say the 23-year-old's death on 18th Street wasn't the only tragedy Tuesday night. They say what's equally troubling is just who had to witness the crime scene firsthand.
"There were a lot of children seeing things last night here that I don't think they should have to go through," Hart said.
Other neighbors tell 23 News off camera they suspect Dickens death to be foul play, based on a steady stream of people visiting at all hours of the day. However, Hart says nothing justifies the horrific act of murder.
"Even if it was drugs involved, no one has the right to take someone else's life, and then to do it in the way they did is just plain awful," Hart said.
A neighborhood turned upside down, after one of its own is killed, in a mysterious murder that for now has more unanswered, then answered questions.
Neighbors and friends of the victim Curtis Dickens say he had lived at the home on 18th Street for just a few months. Some of his friends tell us that Curtis was a quiet and shy, but not a troublemaker. They believe his death could have come from hanging with the wrong crowd.