A body found in a burning vehicle on Lovers Lane at the Milan Wildlife Area appears to have been a suicide.
Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said a license plate found in debris under the charred Ford Windstar identified the vehicle’s owner as Roberta Vick, 33, of Norwalk.
The body has been sent to the Lucas County Coroner for identification.
Deputies went to Vick’s home, where they found a suicide note saying she was going to kill herself by using gas and setting her van on fire. The note said the vehicle could be found at Lovers Lane.
The fire that consumed the van was very hot, destroying much of the vehicle and the body inside. The van’s windows and lenses had melted, its tires had popped, and the paint had burned off.
Chief Deputy Jared Oliver of the Erie County Sheriff’s office said the heat indicated an accelerant had been used, but testing would have to confirm that.
Investigators are still attempting to find a vehicle identification number on the van, but that is not uncommon when there is a hot fire, Sigsworth said.
DNA collected at Vick’s home will be forwarded to the Lucas County Coroner’s office to help in the identification.
“It could takes weeks,” Sigsworth said.
The Norwalk Police Department had received two reports of suicide attempts by Vick in the last nine months, Sigsworth said.
A driver passing by on Kelley Road at 6 a.m. Sunday called 911 after he saw plumes of smoke and drove down Lovers Lane to find a vehicle on fire.
“I am down here at Lovers Lane. It looks like there is a car on fire,” the man told a dispatcher.
A few seconds later he said the car was totally engulfed, and he would wait for emergency responders.
Firefighters and deputies arrived at the scene. When the fire was extinguished, a badly burned body was found inside the charred vehicle.
For hours Erie County Sheriff’s deputies, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the Ohio Fire Marshal’s office combed the scene, treating it as a homicide and collecting evidence. The license plate was not found underneath until after the van had been processed and was moved.
Homeowners near the Lovers Lane entrance to the wildlife area told the Register they heard emergency vehicles but thought someone had crashed into a nearby guardrail that is at a curve.
Sigsworth said deputies talked to one person who was insistent he heard a gunshot. No evidence was found to support that.
“That could have been a tire popping,” Sigsworth said.