The peace and quiet of a fall evening on Fawnridge Drive in northeast Rockford was shattered on Sunday, Oct. 28 as 61-year-old Eugene Keirn was brutally stabbed inside his home.
A neighbor called 911 around 9 p.m. to report an altercation in progress at the home next door. When police arrived, they found Keirn dead of stab wounds to the neck and chest. Police cordoned off the streets and went door-to-door questioning neighbors on Fawnridge and adjacent Pepper Drive.
According to Keirn’s neighbors, law enforcement remained on the scene throughout early Monday morning. Forty-six-year-old Jerry Saylor was arrested the next day and charged with first degree murder. Police said that Saylor knew Keirn and that Saylor’s criminal past goes back more than 10 years.
No motive had been established as of late last week. Keirn’s murder was Rockford’s 17th this year.
“I went to bed early Sunday night, but all the police lights woke me up,” said Manjooba Maulaee, who lives across the street from Keirns. “I just told the police that I knew the man as an acquaintance. We would wave and greet each other in the neighborhood, but that was about it.”
Earlier in the evening of Oct. 28, Maulaee saw Keirn take his garbage pails to the curb in preparation for an early Monday morning pick-up. Zarna Maulaee, Manjooba’s daughter, left the family home around 8:30 p.m. night to meet a friend and later told her mother and younger brother, Muhammad that she heard Saylor and Keirn “talking and yelling” at Keirn’s home.
No one in the Maulaee family saw or heard Saylor’s arrival at Keirn’s house.
The tragedy of Kerin’s death, later that evening shook this peaceful, friendly neighborhood to its core.
“I was really scared by this incident and couldn’t go to work the next morning,” Maulaee said. “I am shocked, I don’t want to be home alone. I keep thinking about that poor man. I saw him put the garbage at the curb and I waved to him. I just can’t believe he was killed.”
Maulaee described Keirn as a friendly man who took meticulous care of his lawn and landscaping. She would often see him outside in his front yard playing beanbag tossing game Bags with friends.
Dennis Howe, has lived in the neighborhood for over 40 years and doesn’t see Keirn’s murder as having a negative impact on the area.
“I don’t see this incident having any effect on the neighborhood. We have never had anything like this out here before,” he said. “It’s a very quiet area, with a lot of older neighbors. I’m not worried at all. It seems like an isolated occurrence. They (Keirn and Saylor) knew each other and must have had a problematic relationship.”
Many people living in neighborhoods adjacent to the crime scene were first notified of a police presence in the area through Nextdoor. This social media app, allows residents in particular neighborhoods to join a closed group forum whose postings range from lost pets and items for sale to crime and safety.
The Nextdoor comments following Keirn’s murder were mostly ones of concern for neighborhood safety and gratitude to those who had posted information about the crime. A few neighbors wondered why a reverse 911 call wasn’t made to residents of the Mulford Crest and Spring Lake neighborhoods, which surround the crime scene.
One neighborhood family who wished to remain anonymous, said they found the Fawnridge Drive murder more than just unsettling.
“I was shocked and worried to see Rockford police officers knocking on my door at 10:45 p.m.,” said one family member. “I was relieved that it wasn’t stranger crime, because I have kids, I am never happy to hear that someone has met a violent end, but I was relieved that wasn’t a random act of violence.”
A teenage son was not at home immediately following the murder, causing them to initially worry about his safety.
“Our son had no problems getting through the police tape once he told law enforcement that he lived in the neighborhood,” the family member said.
“There is really nothing I could do to prevent a case of ‘known acquaintance crime’, but we should all make sure that our homes and property are secured with locks, good lighting and vigilance, just being aware of what’s going on around you,” the family member added.
The family has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and do feel as if their surroundings were safer when they first moved in.
Communication and a sense of community, the family member said, are key in making neighborhoods safer.
“I think the more we get to know our neighbors and build relationships with them, the more we’re going to notice if something is ‘amiss’. There is a fine line between being nosy and being concerned, but sometimes crossing that line may avert a tragedy.”