Autopsies complete but identities of bodies found in burned Bonita Springs car not released

RAW FOOTAGE: Death investigation east of Bonita Springs

Lee County Sheriff's Office investigates two bodies ...

— The only sign of violence on Harrell Avenue is a circle of charred brush by the road’s shoulder.

One day after deputies removed a pair of bodies from the burnt-out vehicle that occupied that spot, the identities of the two victims and the cause of their deaths remains unknown to the public, as detectives quietly pursue a homicide investigation.

Autopsies have been completed, according to the District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office, but the Sheriff’s Office has not released the results. The report should give detectives an official cause of death.

Tuesday, a fire investigator involved in the case said the vehicle was intentionally set ablaze.

“It’s an arson, definitely,” Lt. Joe Minervini of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.

Minervini declined to elaborate, but he said the Marshal’s Office is investigating the origin of the fire.

The bodies were discovered after firefighters extinguished the vehicle, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report. Whoever set the blaze, then, did so while two bodies — dead or alive — were inside the vehicle. Deputies and firefighters were dispatched to the scene Sunday at 6:05 p.m. after a Harrell Avenue property owner reported hearing gunshots and seeing a fire.

The bodies are the second and third discovered in the rural area in the past three months. A set of human bones were discovered about a half-mile east of Vincent Road on May 4. The car in Sunday’s case was a half-mile west of Vincent Road on Harrell Avenue.

The May case is still designated as a death investigation, spokesman Tony Schall said. Detectives sent the bones to a lab in Gainesville.

Schall said the two cases shouldn’t be linked.

“It’s way too early to make any of those projections yet,” he said.

Thick woods and wetlands beset the area where all three bodies were discovered. Much of the land is owned by the state and the South Florida Water Management District, and it is connected by rough roads popular with ATV riders. Residents of nearby communities off Bonita Beach Road have long complained of hearing gunfire from the woods.

Anyone with information about either case is asked to call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (239)-477-1000. Anonymous tips can be given to Southwest Florida Crime SToppers at 1-800-780-8477.

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