Man found dead inside trunk of burning car on Indy’s east side ruled a homicide

Crime in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — IMPD continues to investigate a homicide on Indy’s east side after a man is found dead in the trunk of a burning car.

Around 12:30 a.m., a vehicle fire was reported on Woodlawn Avenue in between English Avenue and Brookville Road.

Firefighters found a still-running car with the passenger side set on fire and called police after making a gruesome discovery.

“When they inspected the vehicle, they found the body of what appears to be an adult male in the trunk of the car,” said IMPD Commander Kerry Buckner.

On Wednesday, the coroner identified the man as 47-year-old Ail Smith Jr.

“It’s almost overwhelmingly scary,” said neighbor Laura Bays.

The car was parked in this grass just a few feet from Laura’s property, but her neighbors didn’t hear any gunshots so they believe the victim may have been dead before someone drove into their neighborhood.

“I certainly don’t feel as safe as I used to,” said Bays.

The death marks the second time in less than a week IMPD has investigated an arson-related homicide. On Friday, a man was found dead inside a burning home on Vermont, although the cases don’t appear to be connected.

In fact, because the neighborhood where the car was found is so secluded, police suspect that whoever dumped the body was likely familiar with the area.

“This is kind of an out of the way spot. I don’t know that I’ve ever been back here in my 31 years, so I would imagine that whoever dumped this car back here probably knew this area or probably lived around here,” said Buckner.

“You don’t know this street unless you know this neighborhood,” said Bays.

Some of the concerned neighbors have already called the city’s Action Center to see if the city can install a single street light, which would make them feel safer.

“I mean there needs to be a light right here definitely. It is so pitch black at night,” said Bays. “There’s no street lights anywhere. It’s dark. You can’t see anything.”

Police did not have any suspect information to release and no arrests have been made in the case.

Anyone with information should call Detective Ronald Sayles at the IMPD Homicide Office at (317) 327-3475 or email him at The public can also contact Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-8477 (TIPS) to remain anonymous. 

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