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Fort Wayne Police await autopsy after woman found dead in storefront

Second woman was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 8:49 am

Fort Wayne Police were awaiting autopsy results today to help explain why one woman died and another was in critical condition after they were found in an empty storefront on South Anthony Boulevard on Wednesday afternoon. Also, police explained a one-hour lapse in finding the women.

Police found the women at 2:08 p.m. at 4331 S. Anthony Blvd. A neighboring business owner, who was not identified, was using the empty storefront for storage and had found the women and called police saying he smelled a strong odor inside, said Officer Raquel Foster, a police spokeswoman.

There were no obvious signs of trauma on either victim, and foul play is not suspected, Foster said. The Allen County coroner will determine the exact cause and manner of death of the woman, who was declared dead at the scene, and will confirm and release her identity, Foster said. Police have not released the identity of the second woman, who was in St. Joseph Hospital.

Foster explained the problem with finding the women as follows: Police had initially received an anonymous call at 1:10 p.m. in which the caller said there was a “dead body and possibly another in the lot across from Belmont Beverage,” Foster said. The caller hung up without giving further details, and the call was classified as a “problem unknown,” she said.

Officers searched the area around the shopping plaza, and the area near the Belmont Beverage at 4308 S. Anthony, where it is believed that the anonymous call came from. Officers contacted the soon-to-be occupants of 4331 S. Anthony and gained access to the vacant business unit, which was reportedly under construction or being remodeled, but no one was discovered inside the unit then.

Police were called a second time and found the women at about 2:08 p.m.

It’s unclear why the women were in the storefront or what the source of the odor was. A reporter smelled what seemed like natural gas, but firefighters did not immediately detect a source of the odor.

The storefront appeared to have an ironing board and bags of clothing inside, and what looked like a propane heater. One of the neighboring businesses is Empire City Clothing; on the other side is So Good Beauty Supply.

Fort Wayne Fire Department firefighters cleared the source of the odor and evacuated one of the neighboring businesses so police detectives could investigate.