Police seek person seen fleeing from burning vehicle after 3 found dead

Homicide detectives in Orange were searching Tuesday for a person seen bolting from a burning sport utility vehicle where police later found the charred bodies of three men.

A surveillance camera captured images of the person exiting the black SUV on Monday afternoon after the vehicle lurched to a stop on a sidewalk and driveway in the 500 block of East Oakmont Avenue, said Lt. Dennis Gomez of the Orange Police Department.

Police aren’t sure what role the person had in the incident — one of a growing list of unanswered questions about the grisly case that is being investigated as a triple homicide.

“We have no idea at this particular point” what happened or why, Orange police Lt. Fred Lopez said.


The three dead men have not been identified, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. Investigators expect to complete the autopsies Thursday, and plan to use fingerprints to identify the men. If the remains are too charred, the coroner’s office will resort to dental records, Lopez said.

The two bodies found in the rear passenger seats of the vehicle were “severely burned,” Lopez said, while the front passenger suffered less serious burns. The driver’s seat was unoccupied when the bodies were found.

As detectives look into whether a second vehicle was involved, they are also trying to track down the burnt SUV’s owner.

“The car is registered out of the Inland Empire, but it has changed hands several times,” Lopez said. “We think a lot of handshakes were involved.”

Police do not know whether the men were killed before the fire broke out or were overwhelmed by the flames.

Neighbors along Oakmont Avenue and nearby Shaffer Street helped douse the blaze with a garden hose and fire extinguishers.

In addition to the Orange Police Department, the Orange County district attorney’s office is conducting a parallel investigation, Lopez said.

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