An early-morning phone call to police launched an investigation Wednesday into who beat a man to death in his northwest side home.
Michael Justo, 56, was found by his wife in the basement of their home shortly before midnight, police said. Justo apparently died from blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.
Neighbors said Justo could often be seen walking his three beloved shih-tzus. Late Wednesday afternoon, the murder victim's son was seen walking them out of the home, on the 5300 block of North Northwest Highway.
Clearly upset, the young man named Eric declined to talk about his step-father, but he did stop to speak with a neighbor who said she'd been friends with the entire family for decades.
"There was a big shock last night to find out this would happen to one of your neighbors," said the neighbor, Carol Scriven.
Friends of the family said Justo's wife had spoken with her husband, a city worker, at about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon. When she returned home late at night, she found the house ransacked from an apparent burglary.
"When she got back, his car was gone, so she though he was gone and didn't think anything until later in the night... he hasn't shown up. She called the cops again and that's when they found him in the basement," said family friend Mike Scriven.
Justo's car was found about three blocks away in a parking lot. Investigators are searching the vehicle and house for more information.
Belmont area detectives said no one is in custody.