An FJ Crusier was found burned near Tyler State Park on Friday night. (Source: KLTV Staff)
Body parts were found rolled up in a carpet in northeastern Smith County (Source: KLTV staff)
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -
Authorities believe they have found the rest of the body that was set on fire and dumped in Smith County last week.
Friday, the Smith County Sheriff's Office said "5 percent" of a body was found wrapped in carpet and set on fire on County Road 371. Saturday morning, Shreveport police pulled a body out of Cross Lake in Shreveport, LA. Police do think this is the same victim, but they're waiting for confirmation from the coroner's office before releasing the victim's name.
"It looks to me as if the body was potentially thrown off the bridge there on I-220 in Shreveport," explains Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.
The first set of remains were discovered around 7 a.m. on Friday on County Road 371. The sheriff says the victim was identified as detectives sifted through burned debris at the County Road 371 location last Friday morning. Then around 4:20 p.m. that day, a burned vehicle was recovered off Lavender Road, north of Interstate 20, which was believed to belong to the victim.
Sheriff Smith says authorities believe at least two suspects worked together to cover up the crime. They think the original homicide happened in southeast Fort Worth or Tarrant County. Authorities are asking for anyone who saw a 2010 FJ Cruiser filling up at a gas station along Interstate 20 to contact police. Police believe that the suspects bought gasoline for their trip, as well as to set the human remains and the car on fire.
"We know for a fact they were in that vehicle or had the use of that vehicle for almost 12 hours," says Sheriff Smith.
The vehicle was found Friday afternoon near Lavender Road, just north of Interstate 20 near Tyler State Park. Sheriff Smith says the Red Springs Volunteer Fire Department discovered the vehicle while responding to a fire. The vehicle was fully engulfed in flames when Sheriff Smith arrived. Authorities at the scene say no human remains were found inside the burned vehicle.
Smith County detectives contacted the Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office again on Tuesday and forwarded a photograph of the potential victim in the Smith County investigation. The coroner made a tentative identification by facial recognition alone. However, no positive identification has been made at this time. Authorities are now using dental records and DNA to try to establish a positive identification.
The potential victim has not returned to his home in Parker County, west of Fort Worth, nor has he returned to work since this string of events occurred. Authorities say the potential victim, who has no criminal record, was alive and well up until Thursday evening. Detectives from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office traveled to the Parker County and Fort Worth area this past Friday and again Tuesday trying to uncover additional evidence to help the investigation. A search of the victim’s residence in Parker County was also conducted by the Parker County Sheriff’s Office as well as Texas Rangers who were in constant contact with Smith County detectives.
"He had just gotten back in the state the day that he probably went missing, which would have been Thursday," explains Smith.
In a press conference on Friday, Smith County Sheriff Smith reported that he believed there to be at least three separate crime scenes. Based on evidence found at the initial scene on County Road 371, the sheriff says that scene was where the perpetrators discarded valuable evidence after cleaning up the original homicide scene. The sheriff added that evidence recovered from that scene strongly indicates this original homicide happened within a motel room or residential-type structure.
The sheriff says other electronic information is being utilized to track the path of the victim since last Thursday, the day prior to the homicide. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from the Texas Rangers on Friday because of the numerous jurisdictions involved.
Before the remains were found on County Road 371 this past Friday, the sheriff said authorities didn't know a homicide had occurred. Sheriff Smith credits the painstaking crime scene processing of that charred scene by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit as well as numerous detectives with the progress made in the investigation.
"There was little information to work with at that scene, however, due to the tedious and meticulous processing of that scene a potential victim was identified which allowed detectives to take the next steps in the investigation," said Sheriff Smith.
The information also allowed detectives to link that crime scene with the scene approximately twelve hours later where the burning vehicle belonging to the victim was recovered off Lavender Road north of Interstate 20.
Sheriff Smith stated, “This investigation is going to require a concerted effort among multiple law enforcement jurisdictions working closely together to bring it to a successful conclusion.”
Anyone with information that may be beneficial to this investigation is asked to call the Smith County Sheriff’s Office at (903) 566-6600 and provide their contact number as well as the information.