The gut wrenching smell coming out of a car Wednesday morning was unmistakable. Gulfport police knew there was a dead body in the trunk of the Cadillac parked near the beach.
When they finally pried the trunk open, they found the decomposing body of 64 year old Phillip Lyons. Now investigators with two agencies are looking for the Harrison County man's killer. Authorities said the body had been in the trunk as long as a week.
Phillip Lyons was last heard from on August 6. When he didn't show up for church on Sunday, a neighbor told me people got worried. So they filed a missing person's report with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. On Wednesday, friends worst fears came true.
Gulfport Police Chief Wayne Payne was at the Highway 90 crime scene.
"We got a call this morning of a suspicious odor coming from a vehicle," he said.
The vehicle was a red Cadillac Eldorado. It was found Wednesday morning in a Highway 90 parking bay west of Grand Casino Gulfport. According to investigators, the car belonged to Phillip Lyons of Saucier-- the same man reported missing on August 12.
As investigators combed the beach area for clues, they found a dried puddle behind the car's left rear tire. Officers suspected it was either blood or body fluids. Similar looking stains were scratched off the boardwalk so they could be analyzed. As for the odor coming from the trunk, "We know that something is not alive in the vehicle," Chief Payne said. "So we're taking every precaution at this point in time."
A tow truck hauled the Eldorado to the Harrison County work center. That's where investigators opened the trunk and found Mr. Lyons' body. Harrison County Sheriff's Department investigator Ron Pullen said, "We are investigating it as a homicide. And we're looking into anything that we can to help us solve this thing."
According to a neighbor, Lyons lived alone on Old Highway 49. Police said the victim was last heard from on August 6. But a missing person's report wasn't filed until Monday.
"What we're doing now is running down all the leads that we have and what we've got so far," Pullen said.
He said investigators would trace Lyons' whereabouts back to the last day he was seen.
"We're going to go from there and see what we can come up with. But we are working the leads that we do have," said Pullen.
An autopsy was done on Mr. Lyons late Wednesday afternoon. Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said its findings won't be released for 24 hours, to give investigators a chance to search for a killer.