Human remains found in missing gay man's home
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(Editor's note: For updated story, see http://www.ebar.com/news/crime/news//264711.)
Devon Egg sensed something was wrong.
The Florida resident called his brother, Brian Egg, 65, a gay man, at his San Francisco home and an answering machine picked up. His brother never used an answering machine. And the recorded voice was not his brother's. The mysterious man on the machine asked callers to leave a message. He called again later and someone answered the phone who identified himself as Nate. He said Brian was out walking his dog and that he would have him call right back. That was sometime in late June or early July.
No one called back.
San Francisco police did a thorough search of the home two weeks ago and discovered human remains, which friends and family suspect are Egg's.
Longtime South of Market neighbor Scott Free shared Devon Egg's suspicions when he first noticed Brian Egg had disappeared in June. He also observed that a stranger was occupying the Clara Street home. He reported it to police and a missing persons case was filed. Free said that police did a welfare check on Egg and that an officer later called him to say that Egg was out of town doing an art project in Truckee. The officer apparently got that information from the man who was living in the home.
Free had been Egg's neighbor for 30 years and rented a room from him for two months about 20 years ago when his current house was unavailable. Free is a drag performer whose stage name is Pippi Lovestocking. He said he performed at the Stud with the famed drag revue Trannyshack that he helped start in 1996 with his friend and partner, Heklina (Stefan Grygelko).
Devon Egg told the Bay Area Reporter that police had been inside his brother's home at least once during the time he was missing but apparently did not see anything suspicious. It was unclear whether that was the result of Free's call or another time.
A man who works across the street from Egg's house told the B.A.R. that he confronted a man in his late 20s or early 30s who he saw living in Egg's house after he first noticed Egg was missing. Carlo Poladian, a maintenance manager at Extranomical Tours, said the man said that Egg was on vacation in Europe. Poladian added that after he saw police first visit the home, that man and another man used bleach to "frantically" clean the front of the house.
A notice from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission dated August 27 was hung on the front of Egg's door advising that the occupants should check for a water leak because of an unusual spike in water usage. Free speculated that the occupants of the home likely used the water during the harried cleaning that he and Poladian observed after police first showed up.
Poladian said that it was uncharacteristic for Egg to go away on vacation and that he often could be seen cleaning the street around his home. He said he would usually go to St. Anthony's Dining Room in the Tenderloin for lunch every day. Poladian added that Egg took a lot of risks by letting young homeless men stay in his home.
Free said the police's early response on the case didn't sit well with him and his neighbors.
He said one of his neighbors phoned police but that the dispatcher didn't seem to take her call seriously and didn't send any officers to the home. A neighbor posted on the neighborhood social media site Nextdoor that she phoned police with her suspicions on August 1 but was told that an officer was sent by the home three days earlier and that "Brian is fine" and was then hung up on.
"I think they should have at least gone in and looked around. Not just take this guy's word for it," Free said. "Basically, this was a home invasion."
But after Egg had gone missing all summer, everything changed August 15. Police finally made a thorough search of his home and discovered badly decomposed human remains in the house. Ironically, what led police to search the home was an apparent effort to destroy evidence.
Free and other neighbors had called police August 15 when a private crime scene cleanup company showed up at the house. But "Nate" was not at the home to let in the workers. Another man who called himself "Robert" was there. Neighbors told the B.A.R. that they overheard the cleaning crew tell police that Robert was paying them in cash. One neighbor heard $1,000 cash, the other neighbor heard that the crew was offered as much as $5,000 to do the job.
Police arrived and eventually cordoned off the home as a crime scene and detained the man, Free said. Devon Egg told the B.A.R. that badly decomposed human remains were found in the home and that police had asked his family for DNA samples so that they could positively identify what he believes to be his brother's body.
On Monday evening, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a headless corpse was found in a fish tank in the house. Devon Egg told the B.A.R. that the body was found behind some boxes behind a door, hidden from police the first time they were in the home. Poladian said he had heard that a body was found in an aquarium in the home but that the body's head and hands were missing.
The Chronicle reports that Lance Silva, 39, was arrested August 16 in connection with the missing person case. He is facing charges of fraud, theft from an elder, grand theft, and motor vehicle theft, according to jail records. He was transferred to Santa Rita Jail on Friday for an unrelated case from Alameda County, the paper reported.
After no response from multiple calls by the B.A.R. last week, police released this statement on Monday: "We have an ongoing missing persons investigation. We have recovered remains during the investigation and we are awaiting the autopsy report. An open an [sic] active investigation continues regarding the missing person."
After the discovery of the remains, police apparently were trying to snare more possible suspects. Poladian said that officers kept a round-the-clock watch on the house from August 15 until last Thursday, August 23.
The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office told the B.A.R. it could release no information on the case. The San Francisco District Attorney's office did not return the B.A.R.'s call.
Free said Egg was single and had once worked as a bartender at the Stud bar but didn't currently work and may have been partially living on an inheritance.
Devon Egg said his brother was a very caring person and often tried to help other people, sometimes to his detriment.
"I think his caring was his downfall," Devon Egg said.
Played out on Nextdoor
The mystery of Egg's disappearance played out on Nextdoor, the social media site. Free first posted on the site August 2 along with a description of Egg. After neighbors responded, Free wrote, "I know him well enough to say that he'd never just leave his home like this. And for so long. Very Suspicious."
Another neighbor, Karen Macedo, chimed in, "We would often water the trees on Clara Street and chat together, once he invited me to see his beautiful yard. He had an old tan car parked back there that I haven't seen either. The door to his upstairs is blocked with objects. I know he would let young, homeless men stay in the downstairs unit (left door). I once saw him kicking a younger guy out and there was a lot of shouting between them, this was probably 9+ months ago. It seems very strange that he just disappeared all of a sudden. How can I help?"
Macedo also wrote about her frustration after being hung up on by police after she related her suspicions.
"I contacted the police yesterday and they told me they went by three days ago," she wrote August 3. "They spoke to someone that is living there and told me they cannot release details but 'Brian is fine' and hung up," the neighbor wrote.
Another neighbor, Shelley Costantini, phoned police and encouraged other neighbors to do the same. She posted August 13: "So I just called and got all that info but I didn't actually get to speak with anyone. I left a voicemail and I'm waiting to get a response. I'm with Scott (Free) and thinking that the more people to call the better."
By press time, San Francisco Police were not able to confirm that they had searched Egg's house before August 15 or whether they had sought a search warrant to do so. They were not able to tell the B.A.R. how many times they had been to Egg's house from the time he was first reported missing until August 15, when the cleanup crew arrived at the home.
Friends and family are hoping to organize a memorial service for Egg, possibly on September 11, which would have been Egg's 66th birthday, but so far no date has been firmly set.
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.