Archive for Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Identity of body in burned vehicle remains a mystery

May 2, 2006


Investigators on Monday said they'd determined the make and model of a car found burned at Clinton Lake, but the identity of the body inside remained a mystery.

The burned vehicle was a white, four-door Mazda 626 from the late 1990s or early 2000s, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff asked anyone who had seen the car around Clinton Lake to call the office at 843-0250 or the TIPS hot line at 843-TIPS.

Coroner Erik Mitchell's office has taken custody of the body found in the car and will perform an autopsy in coming days. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Doug Woods said he expected the body would have to be identified through some kind of scientific means such as DNA testing or dental records. He said it wasn't yet clear whether the person was a man or woman or whether foul play was involved.

"We're investigating it as an unattended death," he said.

He said the death didn't appear to match any missing person reports in Douglas County.

About 11 a.m. Sunday, a passerby called emergency dispatchers to report seeing a four-door vehicle on fire near the Rock Creek boat ramp on the south side of the lake.

Woods said the body was in the passenger compartment of the car, not the trunk, but would not say whether it was in the driver's seat or a passenger seat. The car was so badly burned that, initially, officers couldn't say what type of car it was.

The sheriff's office removed the car about 5 p.m. Sunday and took it to a "secure facility" for processing, Woods said. He said that to match the car to an owner, investigators would need to dismantle it and find its vehicle identification number.

Lawrence Police, the coroner's office and the Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office are helping with the investigation.

Karl McNorton, chief deputy with the fire marshal's office, said materials used to build cars can make for especially hot, quickly burning fires.

"Everything's made out of plastic or foam. There's very little of it anymore that's actually metal," he said.

The foam inside seat cushions, for example, turns into liquid in a fire and produces a vapor that ignites.

"It's like solid gasoline is what it really comes down to," he said.

McNorton said typically a car's engine block, transmission and frame have vehicle identification numbers stamped onto them that will withstand a fire.

"The one that's up in your dash is generally on a piece of stamped aluminum that will melt away," he said.

McNorton said when his agency is called to help investigate car fires, they usually involve a vehicle burned for insurance money or one that's been stolen, stripped for parts and abandoned.

He said one challenge of investigating a burned body is that it must be determined whether the person died as a result of the fire or of other causes.


Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Mazda 626 is of course a metal car...

Linda Endicott 11 years, 10 months ago

Not to be silly or anything, but how can they tell the car was white? With a fire that intense, I would think the paint would be the first thing to melt.

mushflorp 11 years, 10 months ago

Next time I get low on gas, Ill fill up my tank up with seat cushion foam.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

The VIN will be their only clue, I'm sure. But, even if badly burned, they can tell if the person had their head beat in or if they were shot with a bullet.

This fire must have burned for quite some time before it was reported.

My money says this was a drug deal gone bad, dude was shot in the car and the perpetrators drove it to the lake to set it on fire. I watch all those crime shows on TV, so I consider myself somewhat authorititative on the subject. I should write a textbook or something.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 11 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, and the VIN spontaneously scratched itself off of the dashboard too. Although the "drug deal gone bad" theory is a good one, these cases seem to always be linked to someone the person knew well. I bet it was some sort of domestic abuse thing. I just wonder how the car got there and then how the person who set the fire got away. Did they drive in together and then someone walked out? Or was there a boat or car besides the one that burned? I just hope this person doesn't have kids that will now be parentless.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago


Did I imply that the person's death was of no consequence if the death was drug related? I'm just speculating.

You ask why no one has reported them missing. People who are in a drug culture remain isolated from family so that they can stay in their secretive world of drug use. The reason why they haven't been reporting missing is because they are always "missing". Being gone for days at a time on a binge is normal, so no one is really noticing that they are gone.

But, eventually, someone will start to ask. Someone may put two and two together and realize that they know someone who drives a 626 who they haven't seen in a while...

In a very involved fire, the VIN tag from the dash would melt. It's made of aluminum, at best. Also, just because it was a drug deal gone bad doesn't mean they didn't know them.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

So... you WEREN'T directing those comments at me, but you relish the idea that I might have guilty feelings. You didn't intend for me to feel guilt, but it makes you happy to think that I might be feeling guilt. You are being disingenuous.

"Clearly you must feel guilty". How arrogant.

adky 11 years, 10 months ago

The VIN is in about 5 different places on my car. Guess the Sheriff hasn't heard of Carfax!

imagold 11 years, 10 months ago

OldEnuf - you can only write a textbook on the subject if you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

adky -

As has been said a couple of times, the places on a car where the VIN would survive a fire are harder to get to, like the engine block. My car has the aluminum tag on the dash (melts pretty quickly) and a sticker inside the driver's side door (burns fairly fast). So they have to start taking the car apart to get to the harder-to-destroy VIN etchings, and that will take some time.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

My favorite is the story about the rednecks who tried to steal an ATM by tying a chain around the ATM and yanking it off it's base by pulling it with their pickup. Instead of ripping the ATM from the ground, it just ripped off their truck bumper. They panicked, and booked out of there. A couple of minutes after they got home, the cops showed up. The license plate of the truck was attached to the bumper that they'd left behind. That's what I call leaving behind a lot of evidence.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

If it's fair for you to read things into my words, then the same is fair for me.

I don't come here for child-like arguements and fights. I think we can let this rest.

allateup 11 years, 10 months ago

I think there are paint codes in the VIN#

Linda Aikins 11 years, 10 months ago

billyflay, if you paid six figures in taxes, did that include the two decimal points? You don't have the class of someone with enough knowledge and forte' to be wealthy.

I'm not sure if that's what I mean, but come on. Act normal, OK?

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

Paint codes are in the door-jamb VIN number.

I hope the dead person died before the fire was set; being burned to death is a particularly ugly way to go. All our sympathy should be with the deceased.

billyflay: Incredible as it may seem, you are giving even vile Republican conservative troglodytes a bad name.

kitschick 11 years, 10 months ago

I think you all need to stop talking trash and wait until all the true facts are in. I know more than you all ever will, this was not a drug deal and the person believed to be dead was a great parent and friend to all of us. Please be careful what you say-when you don't know the facts. The person has been reported missing and there is still an investigation going! STOP talking trash, it is hard enough let alone having some strangers talk trash!

KSChick1 11 years, 10 months ago

Just to point out: NOT EVERYONE POSTING IS TALKING TRASH Jeez, lighten up. If you know so much about it, enlighten us dumb people.

kitschick 11 years, 10 months ago

I can but will not release any information due to my respect for the family and children of the deceased. This person was a great friend to me and will always live in my heart!

2beknownlater 11 years, 10 months ago

this person has been reported missing and has young children. Quit with the drug talk

kitschick 11 years, 10 months ago

BECAUSE SHE IS STILL MY FRIEND AND WILL ALWAYS BE! We are going through the pain of losing the best friend anyone could ever ask for! One day you will lose a friend that is so dear to you and you will understand!

shortie96 11 years, 10 months ago

kitschick, she was my best friend too..........I WILL ALWAYS LOVE CAMI.........she was always there for me when I needed her and I was always there for her when she needed it.

Everyone else, please have respect for her & her family as this is a hard time for all of us who knew her.

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