CBSN

911 call about garage fire at vacant home leads to gruesome discovery

Melissa Runnels

WTTV

INDIANAPOLIS -- Firefighters responding to a report of a garage fire at a vacant Indianapolis home early Friday say they found a woman's burned body. A homicide investigation has been launched into the death of 20-year-old Melissa Runnels. 

Runnels' body was found in the home after a neighbor called 911 around 1:15 a.m. to report what they thought was a fire in the detached garage of the home that had been abandoned for the last few years, reports CBS affiliate WTTV. But when firefighters arrived, they instead discovered Runnels' badly charred body, the station reports. They didn't find damage to the garage or the home after executing a search warrant.

The Marion County Coroner's officer later determined Runnels had been shot to death. The remains had been burned so badly investigators at first couldn't determine whether they were male or female, the station reports.

"It's very shocking.  It's disturbing. I never would have thought something would happen this close to home," neighbor Shanay Pope told WTTV.

Runnels' mother told the station her daughter had recently been hanging out with a dangerous crowd and believes the death is somehow drug-related.

Police haven't identified any suspects in the case and wouldn't comment about a possible motive. Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.