By Brian Day and Stephanie Baer, Staff Writers
A 77-year-old woman is presumed dead following an early-morning fire Wednesday at her Diamond Bar home, and her daughter-in-law was being questioned as a “person of interest” after she was found driving a car in Tustin believed to contain the woman’s remains, homicide detectives said.
Though investigators had yet to confirm whether the elderly woman’s body was inside the SUV, they were treating the case as a homicide.
The names of the suspected victim and her daughter-in-law were not released.
Neighbors and officials said they believed the victim lived alone, though her daughter-in-law may have previously stayed with her.
Neighbor Yolanda Delgado, who was at home during the fire, said she was awakened by firefighters working to extinguish the blaze. But she said she heard no signs of a struggle beforehand and nothing else unusual.
“It’s very sad,” said Delgado, 66.
She and her husband have lived in the area for about a year and didn’t know the woman very well, but described her as a quiet neighbor who kept to herself.
Firefighters responded just after 1 a.m. to a report of a fire at a house in the 1200 block of North Diamond Bar Boulevard, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze about 1:45 a.m. and found no one inside the home during their initial searches, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Rick Flores said.
Shortly after the fire, Tustin police received an alarming tip, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“Investigators received information that the resident of the location, a female adult, was possibly killed by another female, who may have also started the fire,” Navarro Suarez said. “The person suspected of committing these acts was also believed to be driving to the Tustin area.”
Tustin police found the SUV just after 6 a.m., parked on the street at Tustin Ranch Road and Greenway Drive in Tustin, investigators said. The elderly woman’s daughter-in-law was inside.
“She was cooperative,” Hernandez said of the detained woman.