Sunset
Beacon
 
SEPTEMBER 2004
 

 

Park Death Ruled a Suicide
Firefighters make grisly discovery in burning car

By Carol Dimmick

Police have identified the body found in a suspicious car fire in Golden Gate Park as that of Rodney De La Cruz, 26, and believe that his death was a suicide.

Cruz's body was found in the front seat of his family's burned-out 2004 Volvo in the early morning of July 29 on John F. Kennedy Drive by firefighters responding to a 911 call.

The red four-door sedan was engulfed in flames when Engine Company 34 arrived at the scene. Cruz's body was not discovered until after firefighters extinguished fire.

Police were able to identify Cruz from dental records after officers traced the car to the home of his parents in the Ingleside District.

In initial reports from the scene, a second car was discovered overturned and abandoned several hundred yards up JFK Drive, which police later determined was not linked to Cruz's death.

Homicide Inspector Michael Mahoney said the second car was traveling toward Cruz and overturned as a result of an accident before it reached the scene. Mahoney said the car's owner took public transportation home after he was unable to get help.

The spectacular nature of the fire itself led police to believe that Cruz's death was a suicide. Preliminary indications are that an incendiary device that police believe was self-ignited started the fire.

Mahoney said that Cruz, who was unemployed at the time of his death, was living at home and was an aspiring writer. Family members say they had no indication that Cruz was depressed.

The case is expected to remain open until a final arson report is completed.