An Oakdale man died in the basement of his home after what appeared to be an accidental electrocution Tuesday night, Suffolk police said.
"He was found by a family member lying there," said homicide Det. Sgt. Charles Leser said. "The house was full of smoke."
The body of Erhard Mueller, 75, the homeowner, was surrounded by melted tools and wires in the full basement of the large and distinctive white house, which was built decades ago by the Vanderbilt family, police said.
"He was working with electric power tools, including an arc welder," Leser said.
A 911 call from a family member about 6:45 p.m. led police and firefighters to the house, located on Connetquot Drive between Miami Road and Idle Hour Boulevard, authorities said.
Mueller was found next to the basement steps, near a floor-to-ceiling metal support post, police said, and investigators are trying to determine what he was working on and what started the problem.
"He could have stepped on a wire that was open," Leser said.
Relatives outside the house declined to comment.
His family told investigators that he had been a retired machinist who loves antiques and liked to tinker in his house, Leser said. "His basement was his workshop area," the detective said.
Neighbors said the victim was an elderly man who they rarely saw. "As far as I knew, he lived alone and we would see different people come and go," said one neighbor who declined to give her name.
Another neighbor said Mueller "kept to himself" but appeared to be a "nice enough gentleman" who answered the door last Halloween with a mask on and gave heaps of candy to children.