SUNBURY - Police here are investigating the "suspicious death" of a male believed to be in his 40s whose body was discovered late Tuesday morning in the backyard of a home at 240 Catawissa Ave.

Sunbury Police Chief Stephen Mazzeo did not address unconfirmed reports that the death was a homicide involving a stabbing.

Mazzeo said the public is not in any apparent danger, and that police at this point view the situation as a "singular act."

He said the victim has been identified, but the male's name will not be released until his next of kin is notified.

Mazzeo said Cpl. Jamie Quinn is leading the investigation with assistance from state police.

Quinn urged any witnesses or others with relevant information to contact her at 570-286-4584, ext. 125, or Northumberland County Communications Center at 570-988-4539.

Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley pronounced the victim dead at the scene at 11:49 a.m. and will conduct an autopsy at 8 a.m. today at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown.

Kelley also referred to the death as "suspicious," but said he couldn't confirm nor deny if it was being investigated as a homicide.

The body was reportedly found shortly before 11:30 a.m. near a car in a parking area between two garages just off Center Street, an alley that runs between Catawissa and Fairmount avenues. Police were dispatched to the scene at 11:26 a.m.

At scene all afternoon

Throughout the afternoon, District Attorney Tony Rosini and several assistant district attorneys were on scene, as was Kelley, Chief Deputy Coroner James R. Gotlob, several Sunbury police officers, state police from Stonington and a forensics unit from state police at Montoursville. City fire police assisted in keeping bystanders away from the scene and the front of the Catawissa Avenue home. Police caution tape surrounded the front of 240 Catawissa Ave. and an area in the backyard where the body was discovered.

When interviewed at the police station, Mazzeo said, "Investigators are figuring out a timeline of events and back tracking from the time the body was discovered. It's being labeled as a suspicious death until the coroner can determine the cause and manner of death."

Mazzeo said more information will be released as the investigation progresses.

The house where the body was found is in a residential neighborhood of tightly packed single- and double-homes, just a few blocks from Market Street. Whit lists the occupants of 240 Catawissa Ave. as Barry and Joann Stettler, but police have not indicated whether the death has any connection to the occupants.

An answering machine came on when the Stettler residence was telephoned Tuesday evening.

'Unbelievable' event

According to an unconfirmed report at the scene, a neighbor saw the victim's body in the yard while looking out a window. But Mazzeo would not say who discovered the body or reported it.

Cooper Gardner, 15, who resides a couple blocks away on North 11th Street, described the death as a "very unexpected event" for such a nice, friendly neighborhood. Gardner said his mother texted him about the death while he was attending school.

He and three teenaged friends who were gathered across the street from 240 Catawissa Ave. late Tuesday afternoon said they were "shook up" by the discovery. One of the teens, who preferred not to be identified, described the death as "unbelievable" and said one of his neighbors told him the man was stabbed to death late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.