Authorities identify man found dead on Waynesburg street

February 6, 2014

WAYNESBURG – Brian Friend lived in the Respicenter, a personal care home in West Waynesburg, for a number of years. People who recognized him said he often could be seen walking West High Street as he traveled to and from his home and Waynesburg.

Wednesday evening, two men who were driving by on High Street, spotted his body, lying in the frozen snow next to the sidewalk, on town hill just west of the First Baptist Church. They stopped and checked then called 911.

Waynesburg Borough police don’t believe Friend’s death is suspicious. The cause of death is pending an autopsy that was completed Thursday.

Police Chief Rob Toth said police saw no signs of trauma on the body nor did they find any signs of a struggle in the area. Friend also was found in an area he was reported to frequent. “He was known to walk back and forth to town,” Toth said.

Greene County Coroner Gregory Rohanna pronounced Friend dead the scene. Rohanna said autopsy results would not be available Thursday, but the death “appears not to be anything suspicious.”

Friend, 42, lived in the personal care home operated by Respicenter Inc. for 12 to 15 years, said the center supervisor who did not wish to be named. The center has operated at 545 West High St. in West Waynesburg for about eight years; before that it was located in Waynesburg.

“Brian was fantastic,” the supervisor said. “”All the years we had him here, we never heard one complaint from him about one thing,” she said. “He was very nice. He’s one of the ones you really hate to lose.”

Friend was originally from the Morgantown, W.Va., area and he is survived by his mother and several brothers, all who live in West Virginia, she said.

The supervisor would not comment on any health issues Friend might have had, but said he was not restricted to the home and could come and go as he pleased, which he did. “He’d walk all over town,” she said, and he was known to often wear shorts when others were wearing long pants and heavy coats.

Friend was dressed a little more in keeping with the weather Wednesday and had on a jacket and sweat pants. It was not certain what time he left the center Wednesday, but it was late afternoon, the supervisor said.

The body was found about 4 p.m. by two men identified by police as Bob Plumley Jr. and Ezra Young, both of the Carmichaels area. The men saw the body as they drove passed, turned around and came back to check. They saw he was dead and called 911, Toth said.

The road is heavily traveled and it was believed Friend had not been there for too long, Toth said. Rohanna agreed Friend had not been dead very long before he was found. Friend had no identification on him and his body was identified by a person from the Respicenter.

Investigators were at the scene for several hours. Toth thanked the state police investigations unit, which was called to assist in the investigation, EMS Ambulance personnel, sheriff’s deputy Ryan Koffler and Waynesburg patrolmen Asa Winters and Marcus Simms, all for their work at the scene.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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