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Investigators looking into whether 3 bodies found in Burbank are linked to missing Bakersfield-area men

Investigators looking into whether 3 bodies found in Burbank are linked to missing Bakersfield-area men
Police investigators examine the scene on South Varney Street near Linden Court in Burbank, where three bodies were found in a burgundy Jeep Patriot. (Tim Berger / Times Community News)

Detectives are investigating whether three decomposing bodies found in an SUV parked on a secluded street in Burbank are those of three men missing from the Bakersfield area, authorities said.

The grim discovery came just after 7 a.m. Tuesday by a parking officer responding to a neighbor's complaint about a Jeep Patriot that hadn't been moved for a while in the 1300 block of South Varney Street. The officer noticed an odor coming from the vehicle, then saw someone inside who appeared to be dead.

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Paramedics arrived and determined three bodies were in the car. Although investigators did not see any obvious signs of trauma, authorities said the deaths are being investigated as homicides.

"It's highly suspicious based on the location of the vehicle, and that nobody else was around," said Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green.

It's unclear when the victims died, but Green said investigators believe the car had been there for at least a day.

Lisa Alvarez, who works around the corner from where the bodies were found, said she noticed the Jeep parked in a no-parking zone on an industrial and generally quiet street about noon Monday.

"It caught my attention because it wasn't supposed to be parked there, but it didn't look suspicious. I thought, 'Oh that car is going to get a ticket,' " Alvarez said. "It's terrible. I am so sorry."

Investigators spent Tuesday interviewing people and canvassing the area for surveillance cameras that could provide clues as to when the car arrived, and who was driving it.

The car — which had Tennessee license plates — matched the description of the vehicle in a missing persons flier circulating on social media. The flier says three men heading to Riverside in a Jeep Patriot with Tennessee plates went missing. One post said the men disappeared April 13.

"My understanding is that the vehicle in the picture was very likely the vehicle we had here in Burbank," Green said. He would not disclose the registered owner or address.

Bakersfield police did not immediately return a request for comment.

Los Angeles County coroner's officials are working to identify the bodies and determine the causes of death.

"The bodies are decomposed, they will not be identified" Tuesday, Lt. Larry Dietz said.

It's unclear how the bodies were positioned in the vehicle, though Green said no one was in the driver's seat. Because the area is secluded and close to the freeway, Green said the bodies may have been moved to Burbank.

"If it's, in fact, a body dump, we're going to have a jurisdictional issue to determine who will investigate — there's a lot of work that needs to be done," he said.

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UPDATES:

10:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the investigation.

1:55 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Sgt. Derek Green of the Burbank Police Department.

1:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Sgt. Derek Green of the Burbank Police Department.

12:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Lisa Alvarez, who works near the scene of the discovery.

This article was originally published at 12:30 p.m.

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