Sleeping homeless man, 48, run over by big rig

LANCASTER -- A homeless Lancaster man, known by many as "Onion Man," was killed early Wednesday after being run over by a tractor-trailer while he slept, according to a Lancaster police report.

A man getting ready to leave for work called authorities around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday when he discovered the body of James David Murchinson, 48, lying in the middle of an empty lot at the corner of Gooch and Market streets in Lancaster, the report states.

Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said Murchinson, who did not have a permanent address, was apparently sleeping Tuesday night under one of the large trucks that use the lot for parking. He said Murchinson's body was crushed by the large, double rear wheels of the vehicle.

"It appears the driver left and didn't know he was under there," Morris said.

Police are still investigating what happened. According to the police report, neighbors told authorities a truck left the location of the body around 10 p.m. Tuesday. It was a white tractor-trailer truck, the report states. While foul play is not suspected, authorities are trying to contact the truck driver to better understand what happened, the report states.

Morris said the condition and position of Murchinson's body led him to believe he was sleeping near the rear wheel on the passenger side of the vehicle, and the driver may not have noticed.

'Onion Man'

Murchinson's sister, Lavern Patterson, said the Lancaster native was known around town as "Onion Man."

"Every year when the onions came out, he'd pick 'em," she said. "He was kinda like a little man on the land. Everyone expected him to have onions and blackberries."

Patterson said her brother, who never married and had no children, would sell the wild produce for a few dollars here and there. Most of the time, she said, he used the money to buy alcohol. She said Murchinson was scheduled to enter an alcoholic rehab program on Tuesday.

"I just wish he would have made it. I wish he wouldn't have fallen asleep under that truck," she said, choking back tears. "He didn't want to be a burden on nobody. He pretty much roamed. But he had a pure heart. He would give you his last and do without."

Patterson said Murchinson is survived by a brother and another sister. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.