After responding to a vehicle fire behind the At Home store, 2512 S. I-35E, firefighters found the car was occupied by a deceased man. Firefighters were called out at 9:27 p.m. Jan. 1 after callers reported the fire in the parking lot behind the store.
A witness told the dispatcher they heard popping noises like fireworks, but Lewisville Police Captain Casey Carter said it’s normal for a car fire to result in popping sounds due to the materials inside.
Carter said that to be on the safe side, police were investigating it as a homicide, but that it appears to police that it may have been a suicide.
The area where the car burned is near Timber Creek, which runs behind the shopping center. The site could be seen from the Hebron Station apartment complex on the other side of the creek.
The victim, a 45-year-old Hispanic male was identified by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner. The cause of death is listed as smoke inhalation and thermal burns due to the vehicle fire, but the medical examiner had not yet ruled on whether the manner of death was a suicide or other.
Carter said that unfortunately, police deal with more of those types of calls this time of year.
The car fire, coincidentally, is only about 300 yards away from where another car fire took a man’s life on Oct. 2, 2017. The October fire was ruled to be a suicide by self-immolation.
Update — 1/8/2018:
Lewisville Police Captain Michael Moore and some colleagues of the deceased have provided additional information about the Jan. 1 fire and its victim today.
Moore said that police currently have no evidence indicating any criminal activity in the death, but rather that police were heavily leaning towards the death being a suicide.
Moore said that the damage to the car was to the passenger compartment and that accelerant was found there that was not from the car’s gas tank.
Callers who reported the fire told dispatchers they had heard explosions. Moore said that these would be consistent with the ignition of the passenger compartment of the car with an accelerant. No witnesses reporting seeing anyone fleeing the scene. No video cameras captured the scene. There was no note found.
The victim lived in Irving. It is unknown why he came to Lewisville, or why he went to the spot where the fire occurred.
The victim’s body was examined by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner. The ME does check for signs of trauma that would be present if the victim had been a victim of other violence. In this case, smoke was found in the victim’s lungs, indicating that it was the smoke and fire that killed him.
Several colleagues who worked with the victim say they were shocked by the death, and assert that they do not believe the man was capable of such an act. They point to a devout Catholic religious faith that led the victim to attend Mass every day. (Many Catholics believe that suicide is a mortal sin that could prevent someone from entering heaven after death.)
The man was a high-level manager for the company at which he worked, earning a $350,000/year salary, according to the company CEO. He was married and had four children. Colleagues told The Lewisville Texan Journal there were no outward signs to them that he had any problems or intended to commit suicide.
One of the reasons they say they don’t believe the victim could have committed suicide was that he had just that day made airline reservations and planned for upcoming company travel.
Moore said that the fire was still under investigation. Anyone with information that could help the investigation may contact the Lewisville Police Department.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner has ruled the death as a suicide. LPD Capt. Michael Moore said the gasoline can used in the fire came from the man’s own garage where it was clearly seen missing, and that it was the only can that had gas in it. A toxicology screen by the coroner found nothing. Moore said it was clearly a suicide.
Previous Fire from October:
As for the first fire in October, Moore said that case had been a suicide where gasoline was found in the passenger compartment, used as an accelerant in the fire. In that case, police had traced the victim to a nearby gas station, and obtained video of them buying the gasoline they would use to set the fire. In the October fire, Moore said, the victim left a note, and there was additional evidence where it was clear that the person had intended to kill himself.