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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A passerby made a startling discovery in Southwest Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon.

Police say a person found a body stuffed inside a suitcase on the 2700 block of Ruby Terrace.

It’s anyone’s guess how long a suitcase packed with human remains had sat beside these dumpsters.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday the medical examiner could provide an update on what happened to the victim as early as Wednesday.

Credit: (CBS3)

Still, he also expects this case will be challenging to solve.

“In most cases involving suspicious deaths, we at least know who the victim is, at least early on in many cases. But in this case, because of the state of decomposition, it makes it even more difficult,” Ross said. “Some preliminary indications are it may be a female.”

Neighbors along Ruby Terrace just off Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia were consistent about a putrid smell that only worsened with time.

“There was a bad smell out here,” said one resident.

“I remember it was a sunny day like this; I remember the trash being picked up, but the suitcase just being left,” said another resident.

Police say a housing authority maintenance worker discovered the remains stuffed inside the suitcase.

Investigators initially described the body that of a black woman but homicide detectives say because of the state of decomposition, they’ll wait for an official report from the medical examiner’s office before making conclusions.

Police are also awaiting word on a cause of death.

Ross is hoping someone who knows what happened in the moments before the victim was packaged into the suitcase reports the information to the city’s homicide unit.

“It’s horrible when you lost a loved one,” he said. “But when you don’t know what happened to them it’s even worse.”

Ross added when officers opened the suitcase, they found parts of the body were decomposing. How the victim died is under investigation.

“Whatever happened to the person didn’t happen that moment before they were found,” he said.