Police: Man froze to death walking to church

A North Carolina man died of exposure last week as he walked to church, a victim of single-digit temperatures, police officials said.

Franklin Roosevelt Kirby, 61, of Burlington, was found dead shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, the Burlington Times-News reported. Kirby's body was spotted near the playground at Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter by a passing driver, who initially thought the man was asleep in the churchyard and dialed 911.

A Burlington police spokesman told the Times-News that Kirby was last seen by his family about 12 hours before, when he left their home two miles from the church to begin his trek.

"He walked everywhere," Sgt. Jeff Kology told the newspaper. "We believe he died from exposure to the cold. He was dressed for the weather, but his family said he was in poor health."

Kology said there was no trauma to Kirby’s body or other signs of foul play. Investigators were awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology tests to finalize the cause and manner of death.

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The temperatures in Burlington remained below freezing the night Kirby walked to the church. The low temperature overnight was about 8 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Church Pastor Becky Crites told WFMY in Greensboro that Kirby was not a regular attendee of services, but was apparently planning to attend a meeting there the night of Jan. 1. She and her congregation were praying for his family, Crites said.

"To his family and those who know him and love him, we are all very saddened (by) their loss," Crites told the news station. "It just reminds us that we need to pay attention to the care that we give our neighbors, always and all walks of life."

Kirby's obituary described him as a free spirit who "would speak up and express himself in very unique ways."

"He loved family gatherings and enjoyed talking to everyone," the obituary read. "He made a lasting impression upon all who knew him."

Kirby struggled during his life, but counted among his “most cherished accomplishments” being recognized for 14 years of sobriety in 2016, the obituary read.

"He could often be seen showing off his award and encouraging others who were still struggling," it read. "Frankie found his passion, peace and purpose in life as a part of the N.A. community. He touched many lives and, as a result, leaves many lasting memories."

Kirby is survived by his mother, six siblings and a host of other relatives and friends.

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