ENNIS— The Ennis police are investigating a possible homicide after remains were found during a vehicle fire early Friday morning.
The Ennis Fire Department responded at 3:38 a.m. to what was originally dispatched as a grass fire in the 1000 block of South Preston Street, and discovered a car fire instead, said Chad Wester, the Ennis Fire Marshal. He added a vehicle fire that early in the morning seemed unusual.
As firefighters called for more resources and started putting the fire out, that's when they noticed a body inside the car, Wester said.
“Anytime you might have a fatality inside a vehicle fire, you start investigating a little more,” Wester said. “At that point, we called the police department and that's when they took the investigation over.”
This is the first incident of this nature this year, and the cause of the vehicle fire is still under investigation, he said.
The Ennis Police Department believes the deceased person to be that of Ennis resident Lester Bentle, 89, but police are awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner, stated a press release from the department at about 10 a.m. Police are handling the case as a homicide, the release stated.
"The license plate on the vehicle returned to Lester Bentle and he was missing from his house when officers checked," Ennis Police Chief John Erisman stated via email, adding he couldn't release what might have led police to believe the incident was a homicide. "There are other identifiers that I cannot release at this time."
The remains were taken to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification, and Wester said beyond waiting for the autopsy results, that's all he knew at the moment and all he could release because the incident is an ongoing investigation. Bentle also has no history or prior incidents with the Ennis PD, Erisman stated.
At about 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, Erisman said what police are able to release might be very limited because the investigation is in its early stages.
"If anybody may have seen anything that looked remotely suspicious around that time, please contact the Ennis Police Department," he stated.
Ennis PD, along with arson investigators from the Ennis Fire Marshal's Office are working around the clock investigating this incident, he stated. Patrol officers will be proactively patrolling neighborhoods and businesses to help keep citizens safe, he stated.