A teenager came across a gruesome discovery while walking home from school Wednesday. Inside a burned sports utility vehicle was a dead body.
What was left of the SUV was parked on rural Melonee Lane in the Carriere community. Now investigators are searching from Pearl River County to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for clues.
At first glance, a small piece of crime scene tape offers the only clue that a car fire to cover up a murder took place on this quiet rural road.
"Strange. You expect this stuff in the city, you don't look for it out here," Pearl River County Resident Michael Lott said.
A look beyond the brush and trees gives a clearer picture. Charred debris from a Chevy Suburban blankets the ground.
"We do believe it is a homicide at this time, due to the fact of the trauma to the head, the vehicle and body being set on fire," Chief Deputy Aaron Russell said.
The body was found in the back seat of the SUV, burnt beyond recognition. Authorities hope an autopsy will help identify the victim and lead investigators to the man's killer.
On the ground, not far from the ashes of the fire, investigators found a room receipt from a hotel in Baton Rogue. Investigators went to the hotel where they found a man and a woman in the room.
"It's my understanding they were uncooperative, and unable to provide us with any information," Russell said.
"Local investigators with Baton Rouge have been great assistance to us. They were able to execute a search warrant on the hotel room. At initial entry, they observed large stacks of cash they believe to be in excess of $30,000. There is a chance, because of the traffic involved going from Mississippi to Louisiana to Texas, that it may be drug related - especially in view of finding a large amount of cash in the hotel room."
Russell says investigators won't know for sure if this is a drug related murder until they've analyzed all the evidence found here and in Baton Rogue. The burned out SUV has a Louisiana tag, but was registered to someone with a Texas drivers license. How all that connects to the dead man found inside the car is unclear at this time.