As investigators worked to determine how an unidentified body came to be tied up in a blue blanket and dumped in a vacant East Germantown lot, there were little signs of activity at the scene Thursday morning.
Remnants of yellow crime-scene tape on a tree and fence, that once blocked off the lot on the 5200 block of Magnolia St. for investigators, were the lone signs that a gruesome discovery had been made just 14 hours earlier.
Early in the investigation
Officer Christine O’Brien, a police department spokeswoman, told NewsWorks that officers who were called to the scene discovered a decomposing body “wrapped in a blue blanket, tied with rope from head to toe” at 8:38 p.m. Wednesday.
The victim had not been identified, but since it’s being treated as a “Jane Doe” case, they believe the body — which had been decomposing for an unknown amount of time — is that of a woman.
Strewn with litter ranging from shoes and pliers to bottles and wire, the lot is within eyeshot of a residential neighborhood.
It is surrounded by fences on three sides, bordered by houses, a dirt path through to Belfield Avenue (which serves as a shortcut to SEPTA’s Wister Station’s entrance across the street) and the back of the New Beginnings Christian Church.
The body was discovered about 15 yards from a street on which cars regularly speed by.
While several of the closest neighbors did not answer their doors Thursday morning, a passerby pulled over to ask whether police had determined the victim’s gender.
Declining to give her name publicly, she explained that she passed by the scene while driving her daughter home from a skating rink shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday.
She said she became nervous upon seeing police there Wednesday, as her daughter gets the school bus nearby.
“I thought back and remembered a man there on Saturday,” said the woman, who recently moved to the neighborhood. “He had his back turned to the street, hands in his pockets and kept looking around nervously.
“It bothered me because if he was just looking to [urinate], he could’ve walked back and done it. He just kept looking back into the lot, like he’d done something, or was going to do something or was waiting for someone to come out. He was pacing back and forth.”
Similar case in 2012
On May 28, 2012, the body of 27-year-old Candace Holmes was found wrapped in a sheet nearby on the 5100 block of Rufe St.
Speaking to NewsWorks several days later, Holmes’ mother said her daughter had recently emerged from the depths of drug addiction, acknowledged mistakes she had made and spoke of plans to go back to school and pursue a cosmetology career.
While the bodies were found within a quarter mile of one another, and Holmes’ strangulation death remains unsolved, police have not given any indication that the cases are connected.