AUSTIN, Texas – The person calling 911 reported a “grassfire,” yet firefighters with the Austin Fire Department made an altogether different discovery. It was a scene that will likely be seared in their memories since it is difficult to erase such an experience. They found a woman burning alive on the side of the road in an upscale Austin, Texas neighborhood.
The scorched human remains were found near the intersection of Mesa Drive and Cat Mountain Drive a little after 5 a.m. Sept. 29. The victim was identified as 33-year-old Melissa Davis, KVUE reported.
Firefighters found her body engulfed in flames that spanned a 10-foot area next to the fence of a residence and directly off the road in the suburb of Northwest Hills, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by KXAN.
Investigators discovered a lighter on the ground and “smelled a strong odor of accelerant” near the charred body, court documents said.
A police K9 alerted to an area with a strong odor of gasoline or diesel and police unearthed a butcher knife nearby. Investigators believe it was concealed in the fire “in an attempt to destroy the evidence,” according to the affidavit.
An autopsy revealed that Davis was alive when she was set on fire, KXAN reported.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for the victim’s cellphone records hoping to find a lead. Davis’s phone along with her 2016 blue Toyota 4Runner with license plate number KYV3765 is still missing.
A family member told detectives they last saw her the day before she was murdered. Davis said she was going to an Apple store to get her phone repaired, according to the local news site.
Davis was an avid traveler who originally hailed from Fort Knox, Kentucky, as part of a military family, Fox News Digital reported.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s in international sustainable tourism from the University of North Texas, according to her obituary.
Needless to say, the victim’s family is devastated. They told Fox News they are simply trying to cope with the utter heartbreak they are experiencing.
“It’s an incredible loss for all of us,” said Davis’s stepmother Mary Anne Castles. “We’re all going through a difficult time and just trying to wrap our heads around this.”
“A soul sister” is how Ellie Simmons described her relationship with her “best friend,” KVUE reported.
Simmons said they are both free spirits, travelers and driven to make every day count.
“She had more of a zest for life than I think anyone else,” Simmons noted. “And we actually had dreams together with one of our other friends to start a hostel in Costa Rica and we would have an art station. She painted. She loved art.”
“She was like a shining light in the dark and she made any situation that was harder or darker, lighter,” Simmons concluded.
For the last six years, Davis’s most loyal companion was her dog, Dudley, who is featured in several photos on her Facebook page.
“She took immense pride in being [a] dog mom to Dudley,” the obituary says. “They lived in the mountains together for many years and loved taking long hikes and camping trips together. Being in nature was their happy place. They were truly a dynamic duo!”
Anyone with information on the homicide is urged to contact the Austin Police Department at 512-974-TIPS.