By John McDevitt, Walt Hunter and Diana Rocco
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police are questioning a person of interest in connection with the case of a young woman whose body was found early Monday in a duffel bag in North Philadelphia.
A person of interest is being questioned Tuesday night at Philadelphia Police Headquarters. He is a 23-year-old man police say was living in the same apartment complex as the victim. Police became suspicious after the man walked into a hospital to be treated for burns.
Police have determined the identity of the young woman, but their investigation is leading to more questions than answers about this grisly crime.
Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark says the body discovered by a trash picker about 5:30 a.m. in the 2200 block of North Third Street (see related story) has been identified as that of 23-year-old Laura Araujo. Her hands and feet were bound, blunt force trauma and strangulation have been listed as the cause of death, and the case has been officially termed a homicide.
Listen to the complete police press conference in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 11:28)…
According to investigators, Araujo was a December 2013 graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia and had recently obtained a job at an area hotel and was in the process of looking for an apartment. She had been in Philadelphia about four or five years, they say.
Her father, Lorenzo, says she always had a big interest in religion and helping people.
The victim’s father and mother arrived at homicide headquarters late in the afternoon Tuesday, offering assistance to detectives in their search for the killer.
Police think she had been killed four to eight hours before her body was found, and they are now asking for the public’s help in unraveling her mysterious death. They were not immediately able to determine her recent whereabouts nor where she was living.
Earlier Monday morning, a car that turned out to be Araujo’s was found burning 1600 block of South Bambrey Street, near Tasker, in the Grays Ferry section of the city.
And what police say were virtually all of her possessions — including a wide array of personal items and identification documents, plus clothing — were found, bagged in large trash bags and other containers, near her body in North Philadelphia. Her cell phone has also been recovered.
Based on personal items, such as the victim’s banking statement and personal journal, found at the scene, investigators believe she may have been traveling around with many of her possessions in bags, in her car, searching for a new place to live.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide unit at 215-686-TIPS. As with all unsolved murders in Philadelphia, a $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her killer.