Dead body found in Pinecraft being investigated as homicide

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Homicide detectives and forensics units from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office are combing through a Pinecraft mobile home park after a man was found dead in the road early Wednesday morning.

Around 3:30am, a deputy on an unrelated call found the victim, 44-year-old Steven Palasz, lying the road near the intersection of Fry Street and Carter Avenue. According to deputies, the victim is a resident of the area, which is primarily a Mennonite community.

Residents in the Pinecraft community tell ABC 7 the mobile home park is known as a bad area, and some fear it so much they go out of their way to avoid going near it.

"Apparently it became violent; there were arguments heard, and now of course a death," says resident Amos Stoltzfus.

According to reports from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, while investigating another incident they found a dead body lying in the street.

This the latest incident to emerge from the Shady Oaks Mobile Home Park that sits in the middle of this once peaceful area. "It’s been a thorn in our flesh for a long time. It's a bad place, we even hate to go by there in the evening…it’s scary,” says Stoltzfus.

But the Amish and Mennonites aren't the only ones who are afraid of the crime surrounding Shady Oaks.

Meghan Babb rents a home right next to the park and she says the illegal activity also makes her nervous. "And when my husband came home he said there was actually a body in the road...I can’t continue to live here with that going on in the neighborhood. I mean, we live in a Mennonite neighborhood; it’s supposed to be the safest neighborhood in Sarasota."

And Babb says this is one of many incidents to tarnish the image of the once peaceful area. "The cops are over here for domestic disputes every night. There is constant drug activity going on over here, and nothing seems to be done about it."

And as the sheriff's office continues its investigation, both Babb and her neighbors say all they can do is hope for change. "It’s totally opposite of what we appreciate and like. I don’t know what to say except I wish it wasn't there. It’s not safe for us around here with them here," says Stoltzfus.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Criminal Investigations at 941-861-4900 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS, or online at or via text message by texting TIP109 plus a message to CRIMES (274637).