Police on Sunday began investigating a well-liked Sylvan Knoll Road man's death, a case that could represent the city's first homicide in eight months.

Lt. Diedrich Hohn said police were called to 45-year-old Russell Pinto's home just before noon Sunday on an untimely death report.

Detectives were then dispatched to the co-op at 329 Sylvan Knoll Road once police determined the death was suspicious, Hohn said. Pinto was found with several areas of trauma to his body, he said.

Stamford police crime scene investigators processed the scene, and the body was removed for a Tuesday autopsy by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner. The prosecutor's office at state Superior Court in Stamford was notified of the death and a search warrant was granted for the home.

Hohn said police executed the search warrant, but he did not say what was found at Pinto's home.

Neighbors said Pinto recently took in a roommate at his two-bedroom home and the man was questioned by police. No arrests have been made in the case.

"This is still an ongoing and active investigation, and (we) will have more information on the manner of death upon completion of the autopsy," Hohn said.

Next-door neighbor Ellen Ivone said Pinto, who until several years ago helped his father run Pinto Pools in Stamford, was a very nice man. Ivone, 82, said her car battery died last October and Pinto took her to an automobile parts shop to buy a replacement and installed the battery for her.

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"He was a good person ... he was good-hearted and never had a harsh word," said Ivone, who told police she did not hear anything out of the ordinary Saturday night..

On Christmas Eve, Pinto was driving a Toyota SUV east on the Post Road in Darien to meet his mother for dinner when he ran off the shoulder of the road, striking a utility pole. In February, Darien police charged him with drunken driving in the incident.

At his mother's home on Christie Hill Road in Darien, a man answered the door and said the family did not know what happened to Pinto and had nothing to say.

Outside Pinto's home, which has a painted fish sign screwed to the door bearing the words "Gone Fishin' " neighbor Harley Bissett warmly recalled drinking beers with Pinto, a 10- to 15-year resident of Sylvan Knoll Road, during warm summer evening and watching him walk his black Labrador retriever, Tyler.

"He always talked to people. He seemed like a heck of a nice guy," said Bissett, adding, "He loved that dog."

Bissett said he too told police he did not hear anything out of the ordinary Saturday night.

But he said another resident, who lives behind Pinto, told him she did hear some yelling behind the home Saturday between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

Another neighbor Lloyd Johnson said Pinto will be missed in the neighborhood.

"He was a really nice guy. He was someone you could always as to do something and he was always happy to do it. He was very friendly and a hard working guy," Johnson said.

Anyone with information about on the whereabouts of Pinto on Sunday night is asked to call the Stamford police at 977-4417.