A case in which a man’s body was found Monday in a burned house at 109 Starr Memory Trail just outside the Mount Airy city limits has triggered a homicide investigation.
The identity of the victim has not been released, but preliminary findings indicate that he was an individual about 27 years old who possibly lived at that address, pending confirmation.
As of about 3:30 p.m. Monday, investigators were trying to obtain a search warrant to examine the body found in the remains of the house.
“It’s totally destroyed,” Surry County Emergency Services Director John Shelton said of the structure, described as a wood-frame house with a garage. Starr Memory Trail is a remote area off U.S. 52-North, Mount Airy, south of U.S. 52’s northernmost intersection with Fancy Gap Road.
“The original call came in as smoke from a house fire,” Surry Sheriff Jimmy Combs said of a report that led to members of the Franklin, Four-Way and Cana, Virginia, volunteer fire departments responding to the scene along with Mount Airy Fire Department personnel.
It subsequently became apparent that more than just a house fire was involved, officials say.
Shortly after firefighters had arrived about 9 a.m. Monday, reports from the scene indicated that a homeowner was present, but that someone else might be inside the structure.
That later was confirmed with the discovery of the body, leading investigators to suspect foul play, which Sheriff’s Combs said was due to a pattern of suspicious events.
“A couple of vehicles weren’t on the premises that the victim’s family thought should have been (there),” he explained, including a passenger car and a motorcycle. A be-on-the-lookout alert for those was dispatched to area law enforcement officers as a result.
The passenger car subsequently was found burned and the motorcycle was discovered wrecked, according to the sheriff, who declined to say where the vehicles were located.
“We were already suspicious because the vehicles were missing,” the sheriff said. “We’re treating this investigation as a homicide at this point.”
After arriving at the scene Monday, the county fire marshal requested a law enforcement presence there. Combs said that led to involvement by the arson officer with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office as well as its entire Criminal Investigation Division and an arson investigator from the State Bureau of Investigation.
“They’re trying to see if there are any witnesses,” Shelton said regarding investigative efforts.
No official cause of death has been released for the deceased. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning, according to the EMS official.
A large contingent of law enforcement, fire, Red Cross and other personnel were sequestered at the scene throughout Monday afternoon.
Various public safety vehicles were parked along U.S. 52, the southbound lanes of which were closed to traffic. It was rerouted onto Fancy Gap, which feeds back into U.S. 52 near the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.