Lancaster, CA – Police believe that a body found inside a column in front of a grocery store on Saturday may be that of a man who ran from police a few days earlier.
The grisly discovery was made after the manager of WinCo foods in Lancaster called a plumber about a foul odor coming from a column in front of the grocery store, FOX News reported.
"I saw some gooey liquid and it smelled really foul ... it was oozing out of the pillar onto the pavement," a witness told KNBC. "It smelled like death."
The store manager assumed it was a sewage leak, and when the plumber arrived, he and the store’s handyman knocked a hole through the brick facade in front of the store.
The workers were shocked to find a leg and a shoe just inside the hole, and called police at about 2:40 p.m. on Aug. 11, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lieutenant John Corina told KABC.
Authorities shut down the front of the store and immediately began the process of recovering the body from inside the column so they could identify it.
It was believed to be a man who led deputies on a chase that ended in a crash on Aug. 6, Lt. Corina said. That chase began after officers tried to stop the vehicle for a fake license plate, KNBC reported.
After the wreck, the suspect jumped out of his car and ran into the grocery store and went up onto the roof. And that’s where deputies lost track of him, Lt. Corina said.
Detectives said that the deputies assumed the suspect had escaped, and said authorities hadn’t heard anything about him or from him since.
But the roof has an access panel to the fascia of the store that goes down into the column, the lieutenant said.
"He may have gotten inside there and somehow gotten down the column, trying to hide from the deputies and then couldn't get out," Lt. Corina said.
It was unclear whether the man in the column had gone down into it and gotten stuck, or whether he had fallen to his death, KABC reported. The coroner’s officer will determined a cause of death in the incident.
"It's been over 100 degrees up here every day,” Lt. Corina said. “I can’t imagine being inside that column and just baking. It's a strange development, and if he died that way, it's a horrible way to die."
The body was in a state of decomposition and the gender was unknown, he said.
Witnesses who saw the suspect’s crash and escape said they too had believed the man had gotten away.
"He got out of the car, ran in, ran up the steps... and somehow got on the roof, and last I heard he got away. They shut the whole thing down," witness Henry Oliver told KABC.