Suspicious Car Fire Death Ruled County's 45th Homicide (VIDEO & PHOTOS)

By Linda Jackson - 21Alive
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January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 6:16 PM EST

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (21Alive) -- Word came Tuesday that last year Fort Wayne and Allen County did indeed break the homicide record.

That's because a ruling on a case that's several months old confirms what insiders knew all along.

However, it's taken pathologists an excruciating five months to determine a Fort Wayne man was killed by someone else.

The Allen County Coroner ruled that 51-year old Steven Dwayne Turner died of blunt force trauma to his head, making him the 45th homicide of 2013.

That shatters the record of 44 homicides that was set back in 1997.

Last August, firefighters put out a fire in a car off Ferguson Road near the airport, and found Turner's body in the trunk.

Pathologists knew he did not die in the fire, but it's taken this long to determine how he died because his remains were so badly destroyed.

Investigators said at the time an accelerant was used to make the fire burn hotter and faster.

And because of that, we know several experts reviewed the evidence before finally deciding how turner died.

Because Turner's death has finally been ruled a homicide, county detectives can now continue their investigation and search for a suspect.

Previous Report
It has taken months, but the Allen County Coroner ruled Tuesday that the death of Steven Turner, 51, was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

Turner's body was found deceased in a burning car on Ferguson Rd. east of Branstrator Rd in August of 2013.

This marks the 45th homicide for Fort Wayne and Allen County in 2013, breaking the record set in 1997.

Previous Report
It’s a death investigation that is priority number one right now for Allen County Sheriff's detectives.

A car was reported on fire after 6 a.m. August 7th in a wooded area off West Ferguson Road, a couple miles west of Fort Wayne International Airport.

A crew from Southwest Fire District showed up and put out the blaze, but things took a crazy twist when they looked inside and found a badly burned body.

An autopsy could only determine it was a male.

No identification was made.

The cause and manner of death are still pending.

The car had been driven off Ferguson Road, clearly off the beaten path.

" There are a lot of cornfields, a lot of farmhouses in this area. There's a woods off to the right, and the car was off the roadway back into the woods a little bit," said Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Jeremy Tinkel.

We talked to the Southwest District Fire Chief about his crew finding the body.

" It's not common, no, but it's standard procedure for us. We check the vehicles thoroughly, just to make sure that we don't have any victims inside," said Chief Don Patnoude.

Until there’s a ruling on how the victim died, it’s only speculation if this is a homicide case.

The fact the body was badly charred makes it tougher, obviously, to come up with key answers that investigators are seeking.

It brings to mind another crime scene about three weeks earlier in Fort Wayne.

In mid-July, two victims were found inside a home on Senate Avenue that had been intentionally set on fire.

As it turned out, they had been shot to death.

We are waiting to see if the victim in the car died from some sort of accident, or whether something more sinister was going on.

Sources indicate accelerant was used to make the fire burn faster and hotter.




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