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Friends, family of man found dead under pile of books in burning building still searching for answers

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Friends and family of a man who was found dead under a pile of books inside a burning building are still searching for answers following the man's death.


Last week, fire crews responded to a fire at 30 Penn Books at the intersection of N.W. 30th and Pennsylvania Ave.

Firefighters were able to contain most of the fire to the main section of the bookstore.

Once inside, crews found a man’s body under a pile of books.

Man's body found burned inside bookstore

Oklahoma City investigators say they believe the man’s body suffered trauma before the fire was set.

People around the community tell News 4 the victim was 66-year-old Kelly Hays, the owner of the bookstore.

"The people around here that used him for buying books, older books, some of them probably don't even know what has happened yet,” Fred Pahlke, the owner of the building, said.

Pahlke said Hays rented the space from him for 14 years, until his life was taken too soon.

His body was found buried beneath a pile of books.

Man's body found burned inside bookstore

Police believe the fire was set on purpose, which is tough news to hear for people who knew him best.

"Very nice man, real nice soul," Pahlke said.  "He had one of the best older bookstores in this part of the, probably this part of the state, because he had all types of books. Books that range from 25 cents of upwards to a couple thousand dollars.”

Pahlke said he was well-known and loved around the community.

Man's body found burned inside bookstore

"It was a love that he had because he had been an attorney and he may have also been a judge for a short period of time, but he retired from that and just wanted to run a bookstore,” Pahlke said.

Pahlke said he hopes Hays’ memory lives on.

"Yeah, there's damage and there are lots of books that are burned and got wet but that's really nothing important. It's Kelly's life that was important,” Pahlke said.

Now, friends and family members have set up a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise money to help with the investigation.

"Our family member and friend, bookstore owner, former judge and lawyer, songwriter, poet and artist, Kelly Anthony Hays was brutally murdered on September 14, 2017.  We are raising funds to assist in the investigation.   We deeply appreciate any donation , however small.  If there are any funds remaining after justice is served , they will be dedicated to a memorial scholarship in Kelly’s name in the Guitar and String Music Department at the University of Oklahoma.   The family sends its deepest thanks and appreciation  to each and every person who knew and loved Kelly."

If you have any information on the case, call the Homicide tip line at (405) 297-1200.