AXTON, Va. – Chatham resident Juanita Dalton, 74, has been identified as the person found inside a burning car in a wooded area off Irisburg Road around 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Henry County Sheriff's Office and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office are jointly investigating Dalton's death.
The Henry County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the fire.
The Martinsville-Henry County 911 Center received the call about the fire in the 5000 block of Irisburg Road in Axton.
According to Henry County Sheriff Layne Perry, someone driving down Irisburg Road noticed smoke coming from the woods and called 911.
The Virginia State Police, along with Axton Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad members, responded and found a white 2010 Chevy Cobalt on fire several hundred feet off the road.
Burned ground around a pine tree indicated Monday afternoon exactly where the car was found.
The car belongs to Dalton.
"If anyone knows Mrs. Dalton, and has especially spoke with her in the last 24 to 48 hours, it is urgent that we speak with them," Henry County Sheriff Layne Perry emphasized.
Dalton was found inside after the fire was extinguished, according to Perry.
An autopsy was performed on the remains at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia, where her death was ruled a homicide.
"What we do think probably happened is, the vehicle was driven down into the woods and someone could've either been waiting on the side of the road to pick someone up or a person could've walked out, or both," Perry said.
Perry would not say Monday where in the car Dalton's body was found.
Two women at a home on Mitchell Road, near the crime scene, did not want to speak on camera Monday but said they heard what sounded like an explosion Sunday evening and then saw smoke coming from the woods across the street.
A man who owns an aut repair shop near the crime scene who also did not want to speak on camera, said the crime is concerning but he feels safe because the area is quiet and he always keeps a gun close by.
Dalton's car has been impounded by the Henry County Sheriff's Office for investigation.
Her death marks the second weekend in a row a homicide has occurred in Axton.
"It's very challenging because we just had finished up the one from last weekend and we had investigators that had to travel to Texas and spend a couple days there," Perry said of the back-to-back homicides.
"There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, even for something that moves as quick as (the previous weekend's homicide), with the public's help helping to identify the suspects. There's still a lot of statements, a lot of evidence to be processed. Now to have another (homicide this quick, it's really taxing."
Three people are in custody for the Feb. 17 homicide in which Eric Adams, 37, was shot top death in his home.
A fourth potential suspect remained on the loose Monday.
Anyone who has information about that homicide or who may have been traveling the Irisburg Road between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday and saw someone walking or a vehicle along the side of the road or has information about Juanita Dalton traveling in the Chatham, Danville and Martinsville areas is asked to contact the Henry County Sheriff’s Office at 276-638-8751 or Crime Stoppers at 276-632-7463 or the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office at 434-432-7931.
The Crime Stoppers Program offers rewards up to $2,500 for information related to crime. The nature of the crime and the substance of the information determine the amount of reward paid.