Chicago Victims in Burning Van, Murdered

A woman and child found dead inside a van parked in a garage that caught fire early Monday in the South Shore neighborhood were murder victims, according to the Cook County Medical Examiners office.

According to autopsies performed Monday, the woman, believed to be in her 20s, died of multiple stab wounds. The child, believed to be between 5 and 10, died of asphyxia and was found with a gag in its mouth, according to the medical examiners office. Both deaths were ruled homicides.

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Firemen extinguished the fire and discovered the bodies inside a van parked in the garage, Rodriguez said.

Both unidentified bodies were pronounced dead at the Stein Institute -- the woman at 8:49 a.m. and the child at 8:50 a.m., a medical examiners office spokeswoman said.

The Chicago Fire Department responded to a fire around 3:10 a.m. on the 7500 block of South Phillips Avenue, according to Fire Media Affairs Deputy Director Eve Rodriguez.

Firemen extinguished the fire and discovered two bodies in the cargo area of a van parked outside a garage in an alley.

"All that I can tell you now is that we have a burned-out vehicle, totally consumed on the inside, and we've got two victims inside," said Sgt. James Egan of the Chicago Police Bomb and Arson squad.

The blue van had Illinois plates.

Witnesses said the victims may have been residents of the neighborhood where they were found, but the van was unfamiliar to the people Vatis spoke with Monday morning.

Neighbors expressed shock and concern over the incident. Vatis said several area residents said that the neighborhood has its problems, but never anything like this.

"It's quiet, maybe that's why they picked it," one woman said.

Neighbor Larry Redmond said his daughter was the first to notice the blaze in the alley during the night.

"She smelled smoke and she got us up," he said. "We came out back and saw that there was a blaze."

The Redmond's garage door was charred by the heat of the fire. No one in the area realized there were bodies in the van until police and fire officials arrived.

"We just happened to be there when they discovered that," Redmond said as he stood with his daughters nearby.

The Chicago Police Department continued conducting the investigation as of 11:30 a.m., with the van still in the alley and being examined for evidence.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office were notified of the deaths, but the bodies had not yet been identified Monday morning.

Harrison Area detectives were investigating.

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