Young woman found dead in burning car

TEMPE, AZ – The family of a young woman found dead in a burning vehicle near Tonopah, Arizona, has appealed to the public for help in solving her murder case. The incident occurred over seven months ago.

Mercedes Vega, 22, was last seen on the evening of Sunday, April 16, heading to meet friends at a Dave & Buster’s restaurant. Surveillance footage captured Vega in her Tempe apartment parking garage just after 9 p.m. She never made it to her destination.

Early the next morning, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies were requested to aid Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers with a car engulfed in flames on Interstate 10, a few miles west of Tonopah. After extinguishing the fire, authorities found Vega’s body in the car’s backseat.

Notably, the burnt vehicle was not Vega’s car. Her Dodge Charger was discovered later, abandoned by a restaurant near 1st Street and Farmer Avenue in Tempe.

A report by the Maricopa County medical examiner points to a sequence of tragic events leading to Vega’s demise. According to the report, Vega had been shot in the arm and hit in the head. She also had bleach in her throat. Yet, these injuries were not the cause of death. The report concluded that Vega died from smoke inhalation, suggesting that she was still alive when the car was set on fire.

“She was my baby. I miss her. It’s so hard to believe that she’s gone, that I’ll never see her again,” Vega’s grieving mother, Erika Pillsbury, said during a news conference held by Silent Witness on Tuesday.

A reward of up to $2,000 is being offered to anyone possessing information that can lead to an arrest regarding Vega’s murder.