A burned SUV with 5 unidentified bodies was found on Saturday, June 2, 2012 in Arizona.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told CNN that Border Patrol officers first spotted the white Ford Excursion around 4:30 a.m. off the side of Interstate 8 in western Pinal County, about 60 miles south of Phoenix. When the Arizona Sheriff turned around, the SUV sped away at a high speed.
Why the vehicle was first spotted and needed attention from authorities, is unclear. The Arizona Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu did add, “Just this week, we’ve had high-speed chases in this area and several vehicles have fled from law enforcement.”
Authorities were able to see vehicle tracks off the road that led into the desert and followed them for two to three miles before coming across the burned SUV with 5 bodies inside.
“That’s when the Border Patrol agents went up to the vehicle with fire extinguishers and realized there were bodies inside, clearly deceased,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Clearly these people were murdered, but we don’t know the manner of death,” he added.
“None of the five killed was in the SUV’s front seat. One was in the second row and the other four bodies were found laying down flat in the cargo area,” Babeu said.
The bodies were so badly burned up that investigators couldn’t determine their gender or ethnicity. It’s still unclear if the victims were from Mexico, but the Pinal County sheriff’s office has notified the Mexican Consulate.
The license plate was also severely burned so officers don’t know if the vehicle was stolen or not. “Nine out of 10 times when we find a vehicle abandoned, it is most likely stolen,” Babeu said.
Arizona sheriff, Babeu said it was very likely a drug connection and while there’s been no definitive conclusion yet, “It looks like it’s a cartel hit, where they exact revenge on people. It happens all the time in Mexico; our fear and concern is that this violence is spilling over deep into the heart of Arizona.”
Pinal County deputies were involved in more than 350 high-speed pursuits last year, and Babeu said most of those involved cartel members. There have been shootings, the bodies of murder victims have been left in the desert and just this week, several loads of drugs were confiscated, he said.
The sheriff said the extent of the violence, particularly in the western part of the county, about 35 miles south of Phoenix, is more evidence that drug smuggling north of the Mexican border hasn’t subsided.