Body of Berkeley resident found in burning car

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Firefighters found the body of a Berkeley resident Saturday night in a burning car in Los Angeles.

Responding to a car fire around 7:30 p.m. in the Sylmar neighborhood of LA, firefighters found the body of the car’s owner, 26-year-old Jose Alberto Martinez, in the front passenger seat of a blue 1993 Lexus, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Police believe that the fire was set to conceal Martinez’s murder.

“The smell of gasoline was very apparent at the crime scene,” said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon in a press release.  “The fire was started to cover the crime, but not to kill him.”

The car was parked below a pedestrian bridge in a dead-end part of Harding Street, the press release said. Witnesses reported seeing someone run across the bridge right after the fire started.

Detectives believe that Martinez was not shot, as initially speculated, but otherwise the cause of death has not been definitively determined, according to LAPD.

“It appeared the man had bled a great deal,” Vernon said in a press release.

According to LAPD, Martinez had no criminal record and had a California security guard card.

Police have asked for anyone with information about the crime to call Detective Ryan Verna at 818-838-9976. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crimestoppers at 800-222-8477.

Melissa Wen is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.