A witness who spotted a burning car overnight shot video with his cell phone. Now police are trying to solve a puzzle after a body was found inside the burning car. Was it suicide, murder or some other cause?
The car was parked in a dirt lot off Highland Valley Road, near the eastern end of Lake Hodges. Amazingly, Joe Cordiano was driving by and shot video of the burning car on his cell phone just before 1 a.m.
"My impression was that it was somebody ditching an old car, and trying to bring it out to a rural area and get insurance money for it, or whatever," Cordiano said.
Cordiano said he saw the flames and heard the horn while driving home on Highland Valley Road.
"Yeah, they were super high," Cordiana said. "You can see how far back I was because I definitely was concerned the car might go."
The Hyundai sedan didn't explode, though. Fire crews doused the flames, then discovered a body in the driver's seat that was burned so badly that they couldn't tell if it was a man, or a woman.
"We came out as a homicide unit, because it's a suspicious death," said San Diego police Lt. Ernie Herbert. "It's unusual to have a body burned in a car."
They pried open the trunk, looking for clues. In the passenger section, they found two red, melted gas cans, evidence of a gas fire.
Investigators are now looking for the car's owner.
"We have a starting point, but we have detectives out at some locations trying to figure out who owns the car and if the person in the car could be related to the owner of the car," Herbert said.
The medical examiner's office has not yet released the exact cause of death or the identity of the victim.