A death investigation is under way today after passers-by discovered a the body of a woman lying in the parking lot of a Turnagain Street church on Tuesday morning, according to Anchorage police.
A light-skinned woman with auburn hair, who appeared to be in her 20s or 30s, could be seen on her left side, face turned skyward, as detectives arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. She wore black pants and a brown, long-sleeve shirt.
By late afternoon, police had not publicly identified the woman or said why her death is considered suspicious. Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker initially described the case as a homicide investigation, but later was describing it as a death investigation. He wouldn't provide details. Martha Lowe, a neighbor across the street from the church, said she heard a loud boom about 2:20 a.m.
"I was up last night sewing," Lowe said. "I was like, 'Man, that sounds like a gunshot.' "
Lowe said she did not call police.
Two other neighbors on their way to work early Tuesday spotted the woman at the same time, about 8:15 a.m., and called 911, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.
"They ran over to render aid and realized there was nothing they could do," Parker said.
Two patrol officers arrived soon after and approached the dead woman, he said.
Parker would not comment on any early indications as to how the woman died. He said it was unclear if the woman died in the church parking lot or elsewhere.
"We can't assume anything at this point," he said.
A police crime scene investigation vehicle pulled up to the church about 11 a.m. while officers looked over the scene, peering at tire marks in the dirt parking lot. Other officers and a pair of detectives canvassed the neighborhood, talking to residents of nearby houses and apartment buildings.
Just before noon, the body remained uncovered, surrounded by police barricades.
"You know, that's alarming to some people," Parker said. "But if you actually put a cover on things, that can transfer evidence to the body, or away from the body when it's uncovered. So we don't want to disturb trace evidence, and we try to be as appropriate as possible, recognizing that our job is to find out who did this and why."
If the woman is in fact the victim of a murder, she will be Anchorage's 13th so far in 2012. There were 12 murders in the city in 2011.