KTVU reports from BERKELEY, Calif. — The flaming body of a roped-up man was discovered Tuesday morning in a trash can at Eastshore State Park in Berkeley, according to East Bay Park police.
Two motorists from Sacramento heard an explosion while driving on Interstate Highway 80 and decided to pull over an investigate.
They at first assumed the flames they saw rising out of a trash can were meant to offer warmth to a bystander, but soon discovered that a human body, tied up from head to toe, was covered in flames. The trash can that the body had been stuffed into had itself melted away, causing the body to crumple to the ground.
“We walked up to it, and we could see that there was rope around the ankles and up the body,” said Gleen Wheeler of Sacramento. “The arms were apart, but I figured it was just from the fire… burned the rope.”
“Our first thought was that maybe someone was in trouble, or hurt… got a little carried away with trying to keep warm or something,” said the other motorist, Jessie Herbert. “That’s what I assumed the fire was for. You know, obviously that wasn’t the case.”
Police say it appears that some sort of accelerant was poured onto the body before it was ignited.
“He burned pretty quickly,” said East Bay Park Police Sgt. Tyrone Davis.
Police responded to a call at 6:30 a.m. and spoke with three witnesses.
The Berkeley Fire Department confirmed it had responded to a fire at West Frontage Road and University Avenue at 6:44 a.m.
Berkeley Police and the Alameda County Coroner’s office were also on the scene.
Anyone with information about the incident can call East Bay Park Police at 510-881-1833.
The Berkeley Voice reports:
“When I pulled over, I thought it was a Dumpster on fire,” said Kevin Pegram, a 33-year-old postal worker from Richmond who was driving to work on the frontage road at 6:30 a.m. and was the first to call authorities. “I couldn’t see anything through all that fire. I didn’t know it was a body until the firemen told me.”
Pegram said he watched the fire burn until a firetruck arrived, about four or five minutes later. He said the firefighter told him the body was doused in gasoline.
Sgt.Tyrone Davis of the East Bay Regional Park Police said he believes the man was brought to the scene in the trash can before being set on fire. The body had some rope around it, but Davis did not know if the man was tied up.
Davis said he wants to hear from others who may have been driving by at the time.
“Somebody else had to see something, it’s just a matter of them calling us,” Davis said. “It’s pretty bold doing this here at this time of day, so we’re hoping someone can give us a description.”
Davis said based on the crime scene, the fire was not a suicide.
“I know he was brought here and burned, I can tell you that,” Davis said. “But we don’t know if he was killed prior to being burned.”
Davis said he was waiting on crime scene investigators and the coroner to check if the body has any identification on it, which will be key in figuring out what happened. The police also will examine tire tracks left in mud and soft dirt at the scene, he said.
“This will probably remain a ‘whodunnit’ for at least three or four days,” Davis said. “Hopefully someone will report him missing.”
Davis said traffic cameras in the area likely will not yield any clues because of the dense fog in the area during the morning.