Coroner IDs homicide victim found near fire at Biloxi homeless campsite

Robert Lester Kelley
Robert Lester Kelley

A person found dead as firefighters put out a fire at a homeless man’s campsite has been identified as a Gulfport resident.

Remains found Friday night in woods off Jim Money and Pass roads were those of 59-year-old Mark Daniel Dugas, Harrison County Chief Deputy Coroner Bryan Switzer said.

Dugas’ death is under investigation as a homicide.

The cause of his death is being withheld pending results of an autopsy, Switzer said. The Mississippi Forensics Laboratory was closed over the Christmas holiday weekend.

Robert Lester Kelley, 42, who is homeless, is accused of assaulting Dugas, leading to his death, police said.

Biloxi firefighters had received a report of a woods fire at 4:50 p.m. When they reached the area, they realized they were at a homeless man’s campsite.

Kelley’s campsite caught on fire, but it had nothing to do with the assault, Biloxi Police Maj. Christopher De Back said.

Firefighters found a man’s body facedown about 15 yards south of the fire and called police. Investigators found witnesses who said Kelley and Dugas had argued in Kelley’s tent and began to fight, De Back said. They carried the fight outside the tent as Kelly continued to assault Dugas, he said.

Dugas apparently walked a short distance before he collapsed.

How the fire started wasn’t clear.

Witnesses helped police identify and find Kelley, De Back said.

Police arrested Kelley on a manslaughter charge.

Kelley was booked at the Harrison County jail Saturday morning.

He remains in custody on a $500,000 bond set by Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain.

Manslaughter is punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews