MODESTO -- Renters moving into a home in west Modesto discovered a body Sunday morning, police said.
The people moving in were renting part of the home and subletting a room to a man who had been living there, police said. Police said they believe the body is of the man who had been living in the home in the 100 block of Maple Street.
The renters called police about 8:44 a.m. Police said the man was physically assaulted and are treating his death as a homicide. They did not release his name, pending notification of his next of kin, but neighbors said they knew him as Jorge. They called him the ice cream man.
Maple Street resident Hector Ochoa said his children bought ice cream from Jorge, who regularly waited with his cart for young customers outside Franklin Elementary School. Jorge told Ochoa he sent money home every month to support his wife in Mexico and had a daughter in Salinas.
Ochoa lives in a home in the 200 block of Maple Street and said Jorge lived in the home before him but moved out because he could not afford the rent.
Stanislaus County assessor's records show both Maple Street houses are owned by Kamal P. Lal.
"I have no idea whatsoever," Lal said Sunday about Jorge's death. "That's what I told the cops today. He was a very nice guy. He could not have any enemies."
Lal said Jorge was about 60 years old and had lived in his rental home in the 200 block of Maple Street for a few months in 2010. Lal said Jorge moved into a home in the 100 block of Maple Street in late July.
But Lal said he knew nothing about other renters moving into the home Sunday morning. He said he rented the home only to Jorge. He said the people who planned to move in Sunday are a man and a woman.
Jorge "was the only one on the agreement," Lal said.
Lal said he last saw Jorge in early September when Jorge paid his rent.
Neighbor Mary Cadena said she woke up Sunday to see yellow crime scene tape going up, blocking her home and others. In the afternoon, she stood watching crime scene technicians in masks come and go from the home.
Cadena said Jorge sold ice cream and plants and seemed like a nice but kind of lonely man. She's lived in the neighborhood for years and described it as quiet.
Josie Cunningham, who routinely walks her dog, Harry, past the house, said Maple is a friendly neighborhood. "Everybody knows everybody," she said.
On Sunday, detectives canvassed the neighborhood and interviewed potential witnesses. Police said they have limited leads and are asking for the public's assistance.
If you have any information regarding this homicide, call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339. Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report.