Man's Body Found in Burning Van in Ohio

In life, he was someone's son, possibly someone's husband and maybe even someone's father.

But early Monday, he bore another label: possible crime victim.

The body of an unidentified white man was discovered inside a burning minivan along the railroad tracks used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, adjacent to the 600 block of Hickory Street.

The body was discovered about 7 a.m. after the Akron Fire Department got a call about the burning vehicle. Firefighters were putting out the fire when they found the body inside.

''It's definitely suspicious,'' Akron Police Lt. David Whiddon said.

Police had not identified the victim as of late Monday.

Police spent Monday trying to find out who the man was and how he came to be inside the burning vehicle. As of Monday afternoon, they knew that the minivan, which had no license plates on it when it was found, belonged to a business and were tracking who may have been driving it last, Whiddon said.

The Summit County medical examiner's office is scheduled to perform an autopsy today.

Until then, Whiddon said, police won't know if the man was alive or dead when the vehicle was consumed by the flames.

''Right now, we're just working on the identification,'' Whiddon said. ''We're just trying to follow up with whatever little information we have.''

That area of Hickory Street -- despite its proximity to downtown -- is almost rural in nature. The tracks run along an elevated ridge that overlooks the street itself, but the view from the street is obscured by a dense growth of trees.

At the nearest home to where the minivan was found, Barb and Paul Jeffery of Hickory Street were sitting on the porch -- watching television news stations, and police and city workers travel back and forth around a barricade that closed off the street.

Barb Jeffery said they didn't hear anything unusual and only learned that something had happened when an Akron detective knocked at their door between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Monday and briefly explained what had happened.

The city crews, the couple said, were there to try to restore water service to the area, which was lost when firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze.

Distributed by the Associated Press