AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police believe a woman firefighters found dead in the Northwest Hills area of west Austin last month was burned alive, according to a search warrant issued by the Austin Police Department.
Earlier this week, the police department identified that woman as Melissa Davis, 33. Police are investigating her death as a homicide.
Firefighters responded to an area near the intersection of Mesa Drive and Cat Mountain Drive around 5 a.m. on Sept. 29 following a 911 call about the fire.
According to a search warrant for the victim’s cell phone, which police believe she had with her before she was killed, the fire covered a 10-foot area and firefighters found a body engulfed in flames. Police said officers “smelled a strong odor of accelerant” near the body, which was in a small grassy area next to a person’s fence and directly off the road.
A detective found a lighter on the ground, which appeared new, according to the warrant, and a police K9 was alerted to the scent of gasoline or diesel. The K9 also kicked up a butcher knife while digging in the spot where it was alerted to the scent of accelerants, the warrant states.
Police believe “the knife was placed with the decedent in an attempt to destroy the evidence with the fire,” according to the search warrant.
An autopsy was conducted, and medical examiners found no obvious trauma to the body, but did find physical evidence that the victim was alive when her body was burned.
A family member of the victim told police they last saw her the day before the fire, and that Davis told them she was going to the Apple store to get her phone fixed.
Detectives said Davis’ phone was not at the scene of the fire.
Police, according to the search warrant, hope acquiring Davis’ cellphone data will help them locate a suspect.
APD searching for victim’s vehicle
Later on Friday, APD released an image of the Davis’s vehicle, in hopes the public can help find it.
Davis’ vehicle is described as a 2016 blue Toyota 4Runner with license plate number KYV3765, according to police.
Anyone with information can contact APD at 512-974-TIPS. You can also submit your tip anonymously by calling 512-472-8477 or visiting austincrimestoppers.org. You may be eligible for a reward.