There is no last name listed for him on his residence buzzer, no flowers outside his apartment door — but Robert Zaretz, 42 of Sunnyside, found dead near a tombstone at the Calvary Cemetery in Woodside Sunday morning, left a lasting impression on a neighbor who knew him.
“Friendly, kind of quiet ... a nice man,” reflects Barbara Eden, who resides on the same floor of Zaretz and his wife, and has been living in the apartment building for two years with her fiance.
The New York Post reported that Zaretz’s body was found with his pants down around his ankles and dried blood under his nose. Information also surfaced of an unexplained cowbell found nearby.
He was discovered by a mourner visiting a grave at Calvary Cemetery, the large Roman Catholic necropolis with three million interments, the most burials in the United States. The location is not far from Zaretz’s apartment.
A 911 call was placed to the 108th Precinct two minutes before 10 a.m., reporting an unresponsive white male discovered on the cemetery grounds.
EMS responded and pronounced him dead at the scene, police said.
Conflicting reports state that Zaretz was celebrating his birthday on Friday, March 24 at a Knights of Columbus hall, but a bartender at the establishment on Queens Boulevard in Woodside confirmed his presence, along with his wife, at the location on March 21.
“‘I asked him, what are you doing here?’ and he said it was his birthday,” stated Bobby, who asked that his last name not be used.
He’s certain of this account because Bobby’s own birthday is March 22.
“I told [Robert] ‘my birthday is tomorrow,.’” Bobby recounted, visibly distressed and shaking his head after learning the man he spoke to days earlier was the person found mysteriously dead blocks away.
“We know most of the people here, [but] I didn’t get ... personal,” he added.
Eden recalls hearing a disturbance in the apartment building closer to the weekend but is unsure if it was on the floor she shared with the deceased.
“Late Friday night or Saturday night there was arguing going on in this building,” Eden noted, “but it could have been anywhere ’cause it echoes.”
The family has not commented on the unusual death of Zaretz, who had a Myspace page showing photos of a celebratory evening, partying with friends a few years ago, with a thumbs up and a big smile.
But his passing is already being remembered on a loved one’s Facebook page, in the pictures comments section, on a photo uploaded to the account last Sunday, the day his body was discovered.
“R.I.P ZAZ!” said one, and “omg ... its so sad ... but there were a lot of good times to share.” recounted another.
The Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy but the results were inconclusive. Further testing is being done and the investigation into his death is ongoing.
His neighbor Eden is taking solace remembering a happier time.
“They had gotten a puppy,” she said of the couple she described as “very nice people. ... “I’m shocked. I’m just shocked.”