Firefighters thought they were putting out a trash fire in north Houston, but they made a grisly discovery.
"The fire was 5 to 6 feet tall, so what I did was call 911 immediately," Vanessa Branch said.
Branch spotted the fire in a vacant lot behind an empty washeteria near the intersection of Lorraine and Gano about 6:30 p.m.
Crews said they found smoke and flames coming from a mound of trash. A short time later, they found a body.
"Apparently the firefighters didn't even know until they removed some of the trash that there was somebody underneath it," said a neighbor who didn't want to be identified.
Houston police said they think someone took the woman's body to the location and then set the fire.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences will determine the woman's identity and the cause of her death. Police said the woman was badly burned, but they were able to determine that she had two small star temporary tattoos or stamps on her left stomach -- one blue and the other pink.
Residents said there was another suspicious fire in the area a few weeks ago, but a body wasn't found that time.
"One of the neighbors, a couple weeks ago, stated he called in another incident where they ser fire on the other side of the building," Branch said.
Investigators said they will look at surveillance video from nearby buildings to see if anything was caught on camera.