A homeless Toms River man was found dead by police at his 'campsite' early Thursday evening.
Billy Clayton, 57, was found in his tent in the woods across from the 7-Eleven store between Fischer Boulevard and Hooper Avenue. The cause of death is yet to be determined pending autopsy results, according to Police Chief Michael Mastronardy.
An acquaintance of Clayton's contacted police around 5 p.m. Thursday to alert officers that Clayton hadn't been seen in a while, according to Mastronardy.
Dennis Galante, former owner of Nature Fair on Hooper Avenue, was one of many residents who knew Clayton over the years.
"A lot of us befriended and took care of him," Galante said. "We did the best we could."
"He was a long-time recognized figure by anyone who frequented or lived in the Silverton section of Toms River," Galante added. "This is a tragedy of circumstance of the homeless around us. This follows along with the big problem going on in Ocean County and the lack of housing for them (the homeless)."
Galante had requested that a prayer be said in memory of Clayton at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Hooper Ave in Toms River.
Galante said his friend and associate Eric Corbet, of Holy Cross, wrote the following, which was read at Sunday's masses.
"Dear Lord, we lift up to you William Clayton, who died this week as he lived, homeless and alone in a tent in the woods not far from here. He was as much a victim of his mental illness and past drug use as of an apathetic community that cared not for him as long as he wasn’t bothering anyone. As poor Lazarus was carried away by angels to be by Your side, please give William his place in your kingdom and help us to remember to try to close that chasm that exists between us and the poorest in our society."