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Body found buried in basement of Cleveland home; person of interest in custody

CLE police find at least one body in basement of west side home
Posted at 10:12 PM, Feb 22, 2022

CLEVELAND — Noel Rodriguez and his West Side Cleveland neighborhood were left stunned after learning police and homicide investigators found a body in the basement of their neighbor's West 49th Street home Tuesday night.

Rodriguez, who's owned Noel's Barber Shop in the neighborhood for more than two decades, told News 5 he was saddened to find out investigators had to use shovels and hazmat suits to recover the body in an effort that took several hours.

"Everybody is in shock, we're in shock because this never happens," Rodriguez said. “I’m living over here for 21 years, I have never saw in my life something like that.”

So far, Cleveland police aren't releasing much information about the recovery effort at the home, which also involved the Cleveland Fire Department, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office and the Cleveland Police Homicide Unit.

According to Cleveland police, authorities received a tip that an inmate at the Cuyahoga County Correction Center "killed an unknown male [and] buried the body in the basement of his residence" in the 4000 block of West 49th Street.

Police said a body was found buried several feet under the basement floor. The body was transported to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. The medical examiner has identified the body as 41-year-old James Bennett, of Cleveland Heights.

The person of interest was in custody on an unrelated crime, police said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez and his neighbors can't believe something like this would take place on their usually quiet street.

“They started about 11:30 a.m., and we were surprised to see the cops around here," Rodriguez said. "We were surprised to see what happened in this neighborhood because this neighborhood is nice and quiet.”