Who Killed Melissa Runnels? Woman Whose Body Was Found Engulfed in Flames Was Shot Beforehand

A body found burning in the backyard of an abandoned home has been identified as belonging to a 20-year-old Indiana woman, who is now the subject of a homicide investigation after authorities say she was shot.

Early Friday morning, Indianapolis firefighters arrived at a vacant home thinking they were responding to a garage fire, according to WTTV.

Instead, the first responders found a body burning in the home’s backyard, the station reports.

The body had been burnt so badly, authorities originally could not tell whether it belonged to a male or female, according to Fox59.

Now, the Marion County Coroner’s Office has identified the remains as belonging to 20-year-old Melissa Runnels, a coroner official tells PEOPLE. According to an autopsy, Runnels had been fatally shot. Her death has been ruled a homicide.

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“It’s very shocking.  It’s disturbing.  I never would have thought something would happen this close to home,” Shanay Pope, a neighbor of the home where Runnels’ body was found, told WTTV.

Shanay— who did not know Runnels— told the station the home had been empty for a year and a half.

Police got a search warrant for the home but didn’t find anything, according to Fox59.

Runnels’ mother told WTTV she believed her daughter had been hanging out with a bad crowd and her death is drug-related.

No arrests have been made in the case. Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers 317-262-TIPS.

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