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THOMASVILLE, N.C. — Police and the SBI are investigating after a person died in a fire pit outside a home in Thomasville.

Family members say 60-year-old Eleuterio Jose Bautista Perez is the man who died.

“He loved his dogs. He loved people. He loved life,” said Geraldine Bautista, the victim’s wife. “I want him to be remembered for the person he was; the person he is. He’ll always be here. I just can’t imagine life without him.”

Family members say Perez loved being outside by his fire pit. He had been drinking Saturday night, but they say that does not explain what happened.

“I believe he either had a heart attack and maybe he fell in the fire pit. Or maybe he stumbled and he hit his head,” said Joy Crumbly, the victim’s step-daughter. “We just want everyone to know he was a good person. He wasn’t out there partying. He wasn’t out there having a good time. It’s just something that happened.”

Investigators said they are waiting on autopsy results to determine the cause of the death.

“In instances where the manner of death is not readily apparent, we begin a thorough investigation in order to preserve any evidence that may be critical to a criminal investigation, should one be warranted,” said Lt. Brad Saintsing, of the Thomasville Police Department. “We have not eliminated the possibility that this death may be accidental or from natural causes. Until we know for certain, we are proceeding in a systematic manner.”