(SEYMOUR) - Zach Spicer and January Wetzel, of The Tribune (firstname.lastname@example.org), report that police have arrested a Seymour man in connection with the death of 23 year-old Tabitha Gayle Brock, whose body was found in a car engulfed in flames early Friday morning off Enos Road near Seymour.
Gerald Eugene Combs Jr., 29, is being held in the Jackson County Jail without bond on charges of murder, arson and neglect of a dependent.
According to preliminary autopsy results, Brock, of Seymour, was already dead before the fire began.
Seymour Police Officer Ian McPherson said he was the first to respond to what was thought to be a wreck reported around 2: 59 a. m. where County Road 1075 East comes to a T with County Road 700 North ( Enos Road.)
Upon arrival, McPherson found an engulfed 2002 Pontiac Grand Am, which had ended up about 20 feet off the road along a wooded area.
"As soon as I got here, the vehicle was completely engulfed," McPherson said. " At that point, we were just trying to secure the scene, keep traffic to a minimum, and we started looking around to see if there was maybe any possible victims laying in the grass anywhere, which there wasn't."
After firefighters extinguished the blaze, they discovered the body inside the vehicle but there was no evidence the vehicle had been involved in a crash, police said.
Jackson County Coroner Roger Wheeler said Friday afternoon that a positive identification of Brock had been made through dental records.
Cause of death, however, was pending, he said.
" Unfortunately, fire destroyed a lot of evidence that normally would have been there," he said of an autopsy performed by Dr. Wes Whitler on Friday at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
Wheeler said they were able to perform a toxicology test and were waiting on results.
"It's a strange case," he said.
Witness Sherry DeMoss was out delivering newspapers when she came across the fire. "At first, I thought it was just fog," she said of the smoke. "It was hilly and I couldn't see it very well."
But as she got closer, she could tell it was smoke.
"I saw it moving and thought someone was out burning something in the middle of the night," she said. "I went a little further and saw it was a car. I stopped, looked at it and tried to decide what to do. It was in flames from the driver side all the way back. So I stepped out and called 911."
DeMoss said a neighbor came out of his house to help.
"He said he had heard it and called 911 and that he had tried to get to them," she said.
During her 15 minutes there, DeMoss said she heard the
car horn go off a couple of times.
"At first, I thought maybe someone was laying against it, but it was probably just the fire making it go off," she said. "I also could tell the lights were on."
Concerned that the car might blow up, DeMoss said she backed away.
"I couldn't see anyone else around and I thought both doors to the car were shut," she said.
Familiar with the road, DeMoss said it could be easy to miss the stop sign.
County Road 1075 runs north and south, and Enos Road runs east and west. McPherson said it appeared the vehicle came off of 1075 East, crossed over 700 North and ended up along the wooded area.
"As of right now, preliminary, it looks like it's just a one-vehicle accident," he said. "It doesn't appear that there are any skid marks across Enos Road. It looks like a very low- speed roll-off, pretty much. We don't see anything that the vehicle may have struck."
McPherson added that it was unknown at the time why the vehicle ignited.
Firefighters from Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department arrived and extinguished the fire.
"That's when we discovered the deceased victim in the vehicle," McPherson said. "As far as we know, it appears there is only one (victim). The car comes back to a female out of Columbus."
According to Brock's obituary information received from Voss and Sons Funeral Home, she had been a beautician at Bo Rics in Columbus and was the mother of one young son, Clayton Combs.
Others responding to the scene were Indiana State Police, Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Seymour Fire Department and Jackson County Emergency Medical Services.
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