Dead body discovered on Gravers Lane lawn

by Tom Beck
Posted 8/2/23

A man was found lying dead on a lawn on Saturday morning on the 100 block of West Gravers Lane.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Dead body discovered on Gravers Lane lawn


A man was found lying dead on a lawn on Saturday morning by a Chestnut Hill resident who was walking his three dogs on the 100 block of West Gravers Lane.

The resident, Brian Powell, discovered the man just after 8 a.m. He was taking his dogs, a lab and two basset mixes, through a shortcut that connects Pastorius Park to West Gravers Lane when the lab uncharacteristically bolted off its leash. The dog sprinted to investigate a nearby tree, and within seconds, Powell discovered what his dog had found – a dead body at the base of the tree. He called 911 at 8:20 a.m. 

“It was surreal. He had fallen face-down in the mud. It’s a scene that will forever be tattooed in my head,” said Powell, who wondered if the man had sought shelter under the tree during the previous night’s thunderstorm. 

Powell said emergency dispatchers asked that he remain with the body until police arrived, because it could possibly be a crime scene. As he waited, Powell said, he was struck by the tragic nature of the body – a tall Black man who appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s and was dressed in “a ripped old white t-shirt, a pair of gym shorts and old sneakers.” 

Lying on the grass were a few items that Powell said he assumed had belonged to the man and may have been “his only worldly possessions.”

“A few inches from the man’s right hand were three crumpled up dollar bills, and a few inches from his left hand was a quarter and a Bic lighter,” Powell said. The entire body was covered in mud. 

Powell said he stepped closer to the body to look for signs of foul play but did not see gunshot wounds, or other signs of trauma. He said he also looked around the property for signs of disturbance, such as a broken window, but did not see any. 

“There did not appear to be any indication of anything being wrong, other than that the man was dead,” he said. 

Police have not yet identified the body, but confirmed to the Local that they did not suspect foul play.

“There were no obvious signs of trauma,” said Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson Jasmine Reilly in an email to the Local. 

Reilly said that the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was transported to the medical examiner's office for further investigation. 

The arrival of police and emergency response vehicles drew a group of neighbors out to witness the commotion. Several of those who saw the body told the Local that they didn’t recognize the man and doubted he was a neighbor. Like Powell and the police, none suspected foul play.

“It was disturbing and very eerie,” said Mariana Hotea, who lives on the block. “It was just really strange how he ended up on somebody’s property.”

A woman who gave her name only as Jennifer who lives near the property, said that she never heard anything like gunfire or screaming that would suggest violence.  

“I wasn’t scared,” she said. “I just felt bad for the man and his family.”

The fire department and an ambulance were the first to arrive on the scene, within about five minutes after the 911 call, neighbors said.

“All day for hours it was ambulances, police cars and vans coming and going,” said Peg Smith, another neighbor on the block. 

Several neighbors told the Local they were curious about how the man died and would feel better about the situation if they knew how it happened. 

Neighbors also voiced concerns about how long it took the police to respond to the incident. While firefighters and EMTs arrived on the scene within minutes, they said it took well over an hour for police to show.

“I don’t want everybody in the neighborhood to be grousing about this unfortunate guy, but I do want people to grouse about how long it took for the police to get there,” Powell said.

Powell said that the detective he spoke to told him that response times have been more drawn out than usual due to staffing issues.

Powell told the Local that after about 70 minutes, police detectives arrived on the scene. Neighbors said detectives never knocked on their doors to gather further information about the man.