Duluth man's killer remains at large

AJC Exclusive: Friends fear his generosity made him a victim

Daniel Aftowski was the kind of guy who fed stray kittens, tutored friends' children and lent a hand or a few dollars when needed.

Yet people who knew him believe Aftowski's generosity was his downfall.

On Feb. 9, the 42-year-old insurance representative was found dead of more than 30 stab wounds inside his Duluth apartment. Gwinnett County police obtained arrest warrants for an acquaintance, Marcus Huff, 35, of Norcross, on a murder charge two weeks later, but haven't located him. The two men knew each other and were embroiled in a dispute, said Officer Brian Kelley, department spokesman.

Aftowski recently loaned Huff money, which Huff didn't repay, Aftowski's friends said.

"He lived to help people, which I suspect was his undoing," said Karen Dulski, his friend of three years. "He helped a litter of stray kittens behind his home, helped friends' kids with homework, loaned money, gave pep talks, was an ear and a shoulder for so many of us."

Family members said the first sign that something was wrong came on Feb. 5, when Aftowski failed to show up for a Friday night work shift. Aftkowski's boss notified the man's father when he missed work again on Monday. Officers sent to check on Aftowski's welfare had no response at his apartment in the 1700 block of Arbor Drive. However, they noticed his car was still parked out front.

The following day, police returned, met with a property manager and entered the apartment. This time the car was gone.

Aftowski's body was on the bedroom floor, covered by an air mattress and a sleeping bag. A man who never married, Aftowski lived alone. Police said there were no signs of forced entry to his apartment. Twice before, Aftkowski had allowed friends or acquaintances down on their luck to stay in his home, to the consternation of relatives .

"I've told him, ‘Dan, you just can't take everybody under your wing and try to change the world,'" said Jerry Aftowski, the man's father, of Mesa, Ariz. "You can help people out, but to give them a place to stay is not a very good idea, because you don't know who you're dealing with."

Huff was convicted in 1999 of aggravated assault, obstruction of an officer and theft by receiving stolen property in DeKalb County.

Aftowski's apartment was in disarray, as if someone had rifled through his belongings, and his wallet was missing, family members said. They believe he was killed on Friday and the suspect remained in the apartment until Monday, when Aftowski's car was last sighted in the parking lot. Police have recovered the car and are examining it for evidence.

Dulski, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., recently set up a memorial website for her friend. She described Aftowski as a homebody who lived to work and chat on his computer with friends.

"He was very smart, but kind of naive," she said. "He helped the wrong person."

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact investigators at the Gwinnett County Police Department at 770-513-5300.

Meet the reporter: Andria Simmons has covered police and courts since 2002, first for The Gwinnett Daily Post and then The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She's a newlywed who hasn't gotten around to changing her name. Friends of Dan Aftowski, who was well-known in several online forums by his Internet moniker "SentFar," e-mailed her in the weeks following his death. They were understandably stunned and scrambling for information about what happened. "It's clear that he positively impacted a lot of lives," she said.