UPDATE: Man Found Dead Outside Rockford Church Identified

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) – A gruesome scene on Rockford’s southwest side this morning after police found a dead man covered in blood outside Saint Anthony’s Church. Police say the victim was stabbed to death.

“It’s very disrespectful that something like this could happen in front of the church.”

St. Anthony Catholic Church is now bordered by police tape. Early Thursday morning, Rockford Police say a priest at the church found 29-year-old Nicholas Vitali lying in a pool of blood just across from the steps leading up to the church at Kent and Ferguson.

His stabbing death, the first murder of 2014 in Rockford, has shocked neighbors in the Ethnic Village.

“This is not the same neighborhood that we grew up in. It’s very sad. It’s a sad day in Rockford,” said longtime resident Pernell Hobson.

“I have 3 little boys and it scares the crap out of me. I don’t even want to go outside most of the time,” said Carrie Hickerson.

The area where Vitali was found has long been a main focus of the Rockford Police Department after several shootings in the neighborhood last fall, police more than doubled the amount of officers patrolling the area.

At the time, police said they saw a 10% drop in crime but in a neighborhood overrun by gangs and drugs, neighbors say more needs to be don or the shootings will never end.

“The teenagers out here are at war with each other, for nothing,” Hobson said.

We did speak with workers from the church this morning. They said they were surprised and saddened this happened so close to the church.

Although police have focused on the neighborhood in the past with extra patrols, investigators don’t have plans right now to beef up enforcement in the area.

Police have not made any arrests yet in this case. If you have any information, please call Rockford Police at (815)987-5824 or CrimeStoppers at (815)963-7867.

UPDATE: Police have released the name of the man found dead in front of St. Anthony Catholic Church this morning.

He has been identified as 29-year-old Nicholas Vitali. Investigators say the preliminary investigation revealed that Vitali had been stabbed.

We will have the latest on this story tonight on 23 News at 5.

ROCKFORD (WIFR)-- A pastor for a Rockford church called police early this morning after seeing a bloody man laying in a nearby street.

Rockford Police arrived on the scene just after 3:30 Thursday morning at the intersection of Kent and Ferguson street near St. Anthony Church where they found a man laying dead in the road.

Police say the victim is a 29 year-old Hispanic male.

No other information has been released but police say the victim was murdered.

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