A former Police Department officer and the son of the township's first police chief was found dead Monday.
Darrin "Mark" Payne, 49, was discovered in his Manchester home Monday morning by family members, Chief of Police Brian Klimakowski confirmed.
Detectives from Manchester and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office are investigating Payne's death. An autopsy is planned, and toxicology results are pending to determine the cause of death, according to Klimakowski.
"All the guys who worked with Mark are saddened by the news," Klimakowski said, adding that many of the officers who worked with Payne have since left the department.
Payne worked as a police officer in Manchester from the mid-1980s through 2000 and was the youngest son of the department's first chief of police, Harold Payne. The elder Payne, also Manchester's first full-time officer, was appointed to lead the force after a full-time police department was created through a township ordinance in January 1965.
Harold Payne retired from the department in 1995 and died in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Hattie.
The prosecutor's office involvement in this case is normal and does not represent a desire to avoid a conflict of interest since Payne was a former Manchester officer, according to the chief.
"That's just normal protocol," Klimakowski said. "They come out on all unattended deaths."
Payne graduated Manchester Township High School in 1981, along with fellow officer Mike Lychock, who retired as a lieutenant in 2010. Both men came to the police department in 1986.
"He genuinely cared about the people in town," Lychock said.
Spending his time in Manchester in the department's patrol division, Payne — also a member of the department's Honor Guard — ensured that he represented the township with pride.
"He was a sharp troop. He always took care of his uniform," Lychock said.
Lychock said that he would occasionally see Payne around town over the past few years, but the two did not keep in touch.
"It's a shame that he went so young," he said.