Body Found After Car Fire in Garage of Home

Times Staff Writer

A charred, unidentified body of a man was discovered in the garage of a Laguna Niguel home Wednesday morning after firefighters put out a small car fire, Orange County sheriff's officials said.

The sheriff's bomb squad was called when it appeared that an explosion might have started the fire. Investigators released a statement late Wednesday that they still were trying to determine the cause.

The body, found in a sitting position inside the car, apparently was burned beyond recognition, Sheriff's Department officials said. It was taken to the county coroner's office in Santa Ana, where an autopsy was scheduled for today.

A coroner's spokeswoman said dental records had been acquired to help confirm the identify of the body. She declined to say who investigators think victim is or who lives at the home in the 24300 block of Nugget Falls Lane.

Witnesses said they noticed smoke pouring from the sides of the garage door at the house just before noon.

"I heard some glass breaking," said Matthew Casebier, 21, who lives across the street from where the body was found. "Then I heard someone screaming for me to call the Fire Department."

Casebier said that before county firefighters could arrive, he and a worker at a nearby house under construction rushed across the street and threw open the front door of the three-bedroom home.

"We didn't see anybody," Casebier said. Opening the garage door, Casebier said, he found a 1986 Toyota Camry engulfed in flames. "I ran back outside."

The construction worker, who identified himself only as John, said he was driving down the street when he spotted the fire. "The garage was full of smoke. It was pouring out," he said. "The body was just sitting there" in the car.

Casebier and other neighbors said that the Nugget Falls Lane home is owned by a Vietnamese family that moved into the brand-new, $250,000 home two months ago.

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