JASPER COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A little more than a week after his car was found burned to the rims near the Lake Sam Rayburn dam in Jasper County, a 39-year-old Arlington man's body washed ashore Monday afternoon. The body was sent to Beaumont, so an autopsy can be conducted.
There were no immediate signs of any foul play, Newman said. Later, Tuesday afternoon, a press release from the Jasper Count Sheriff's Office stated the preliminary autopsy report indicated that the cause of death was drowning.
The man was identified as Cecil Ray Sells. His burnt-out Nissan Sedan was found off Highway 255 near the dam on Jan. 6. Newman said the car was burned so badly that the fire destroyed its license plates and dash VIN number. As a result, experts from the state's Auto Task Force were sent out to examine the car's burned out wreckage, and they found a VIN number on its frame four or five days after the vehicle was found.
Using the VIN number, the Jasper County Sheriff's Office traced the car back to its owner in Arlington. When they called the man's residence, his wife answered.
"The man's wife told us that before he left the other day, he told her that he was going to walk out in a lake somewhere, and that she would never see him again," Newman said.
After the JCSO determined Sell's identity the Army Corps of Engineers started checking to see if the man's body had washed ashore. He said they checked three times a day.
In addition, Newman said investigators with the State Fire Marshall's office are going to check out the car to see if any accelerants were used to set the fire.
Newman said they have one witness that said he pulled into a small park off Highway 255 near where Sell's car was found to use the bathroom. When he went into the bathroom, the car's headlights were allegedly on. However, upon leaving the bathroom, the car's lights were off Newman said. The witness said he saw flames inside the car, but couldn't tell if anyone was inside.
Fire crews from Jasper put out the flames.