Police: Burning body tentatively identified

July 7, 2011 4:42:27 PM PDT
Friends of a woman whose body was found burning at a local park are in shock, as police search for clues in this horrifying case. The woman's body was found on fire at George Bush Park early Wednesday morning. We now know she was last seen at her job at a restaurant off the Katy Freeway near Fry.

Police say clothing and other physical characteristics on the body have led to a tentative identification of Norma Angelica Tapia, 42. They are awaiting fingerprints and other forensics testing for further confirmation.

Houston police say Tapia's car was found Wednesday morning outside the restaurant where she worked as a cook, the Shish Kabob Café II off the Katy Freeway. Co-workers saw Tapia get in the car at about 10pm Tuesday. Her body was found three hours later, burning on the side of the road inside George Bush Park.

"Very sweet, she was like a family member to us," recalled co-worker Arshia Mohammadi. "Obviously what happened was a tragedy."

Mohammadi is the manager at the restaurant. He can't imagine anyone wanting to hurt Tapia.

He said, "She was a strong woman. She didn't have any enemies as far as I know."

Police say they have talked to Tapia's estranged husband and boyfriend, and both appear to have alibis. Investigators are now reviewing surveillance video from the cameras around the parking lot at the restaurant, hoping to find leads on a suspect.

"We believe that somebody could have been walking through this parking lot and saw what happened," said Houston Police Sgt. Warren Meeler. "If she was taken from this parking lot forcibly, more than likely somebody possibly saw it."

Customers at the restaurant are slowly hearing of the tragedy. They are saddened, and some are now concerned for their own safety.

"That just seems so odd," said customer Denise Rogers. "So I'm thinking, is it someone that she knew, or is it just a random act, or what?"

Tapia's body burned so badly that the medical examiner's office has yet to be able to determine the cause of her death. Police ask that you call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS if you saw anything suspicious on Tuesday night.

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