(The Blaze/AP) – An Arizona sheriff says five bodies found burned beyond recognition inside the shell of a charred SUV are likely the result of drug cartel violence.
The bodies and vehicle were found in the Vekol Valley, a rugged, mountainous desert area that’s a well-known smuggling corridor for drugs and illegal immigrants headed from Mexico to Phoenix and the U.S. interior.
The bodies were so severely burned that investigators couldn’t even determine their gender or ethnicity. While it remains uncertain whether the victims were from Mexico, the sheriff’s department has notified the Mexican Consulate.
“Given all these indicators, you don’t have to be a homicide detective to add up all this information,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Saturday.
A Border Patrol agent first spotted the white Ford Expedition driving at around 4:30 a.m, however, the SUV disappeared and federal and local law enforcement were unable to track it down. It is not clear why the vehicle drew attention from authorities in the first place.
At daybreak, an agent spotted tracks leading from Interstate 8 into the desert. The vehicle that left the tracks had apparently launched off the highway, going airborne for a short distance before landing in the desert. The tracks continued on for a couple of miles.