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Woman dies, 2nd hurt in storefront mystery

Authorities found a woman dead and another in serious condition Wednesday afternoon inside a vacant storefront at a strip mall on South Anthony Boulevard, Fort Wayne police said.

Investigators did not find any obvious signs of trauma to the women, police spokeswoman officer Raquel Foster said, adding that police do not suspect foul play.

Why the women were in the space at 4331 S. Anthony Blvd. and what harmed them was not clear. Firefighters checked for dangerous fumes and did not detect any, Foster said.

Police officers initially came to the scene about 1:10 p.m. after an anonymous caller told dispatchers there was a “dead body and possibly another in the lot across from Belmont Beverage” and then hung up, according to a police statement.

Believing the call came from the nearby Belmont Beverage at 4308 S. Anthony across from the strip mall, known as the Anthony Wayne Village Centre, police searched the area around the liquor store and the strip mall. In the process, officers entered the space in the mall where the women were later discovered, but no one was found inside at the time, police said.

About an hour later, the owner of a business in the strip mall reported a suspicious odor coming from the space and that people inside needed help, police said.

Officers, firefighters and medics were sent to the strip mall, just south of McKinnie Avenue. And in the storefront, with paper taped over its large windows, they found the two women, police said.

Medics pronounced one woman dead, and they took the other to a hospital in serious condition, police said. Their identities were not released. The Allen County Coroner’s Office will determine what caused one woman to die.

The business owner who called authorities told The Journal Gazette that he rents the space where the women were found. In the interest of his business, the owner asked that his name not be used.

He said that when he went into the space Wednesday afternoon, after police had come and gone, he smelled some sort of gas and heard snoring but could not see anyone because the space was dark and does not have power. Using the light from his cellphone, he still could not see anyone, and with the odor becoming too much for him, he called for help, he said.

He said he had hired a man to renovate the space so it could be opened as a convenience store in the spring. He said he did not know the women found in the space and did not know why they were there.

“I never seen them before,” he said.

aingersoll@jg.net

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