SALEM — A woman found her neighbor's body inside her sport utility vehicle when she went to drive her daughter to school early yesterday afternoon, according to neighbors and police.
The attorney general's office said it is investigating the "untimely death" of the young man, estimated by one witness to be in his late 20s. Investigators said they do not know the cause of death.
Julie Smeltzer ran from her home at 101 N. Main Street to her neighbor's home about 12:20 p.m., frantic for help.
"She came and knocked on my door and said, 'I was going to take my little girl to school, but I saw a guy in my car,'" said Isaac Lopez, who lives next door at 99 N. Main Street.
Lopez said when he followed Smeltzer to her white Mercury SUV, a young man was slouched in the passenger's seat.
"When I saw him, I thought he was sleeping," Lopez said.
Smeltzer had called 911. Lopez said he watched a medic try to find a pulse on the young man's neck, then shake his head no to a police officer, indicating there was no pulse.
"I said, 'Uh, oh, he's dead,'" Lopez recalled late yesterday afternoon.
Police said they found minor contusions on the victim's body.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said an autopsy is scheduled for this morning.
Young said few details are being released as police investigate the death. The man's identity is being withheld until his next of kin is notified. Neighbors said the man lived on their street and could be seen going to work early in the morning. A small lunch cooler was visible near the SUV.
Police spent the afternoon cataloging a variety of evidence, including a trail of spattered blood heading north along North Main Street.
State police Lt. James White said troopers with the major crime unit were assisting Salem police officers with evidence collection.
Police officers could be seen gathering clothing and putting it into red evidence bags. Other officers were photographing the SUV and the area around the home.
Another neighbor, Richard Bisson, said he heard dogs barking and tires screeching in the area after 11 p.m. Wednesday. But Bisson said he couldn't be sure whether the noise came from Smeltzer's home or from Ken's Country Store, which is across the street.
"A lot of people try to go there late at night and get mad because it's closed," Bisson said.