TRUCKEE - A woman found dead inside a bloody duffel bag left at a Tahoe Donner parking lot Monday evening was murdered at a different location and dropped at the parking lot, police believe.
In their first homicide investigation as a department, Truckee police are using their entire force to investigate the grisly death.
A group of four golfers returning from a Reno golf game reported the body in the parking lot of the Northwoods clubhouse at 3:40 p.m. Monday, police said.
"One of the gentlemen noticed a duffel bag placed next to his vehicle," said Truckee police Lt. Dan Johnston. "He felt the duffel bag and it did not feel normal to him, so he called police."
Police opened the bag and discovered a dead woman. The woman was clothed and did not appear to be dismembered, said Johnston. No one has been reported missing within Truckee town limits, police said.
Police are awaiting autopsy reports from the Placer County coroner in Auburn to determine the victim's identity, age and cause of death. Although police opened the bag, all they were able to determine was that the victim was an adult woman.
"This is going to be a very slow, painstaking process to take the bag apart with the body inside, and you have to do it layer by layer," said Johnston. "And frankly her face is not readily visible."
Clues have police convinced the victim was not killed in the parking lot, but taken there in a duffel bag and left Monday.
The person who dropped the body there did it during the day in a busy parking lot, and police are trying to locate eyewitnesses,
"This person inside this bag was placed there in broad daylight, undoubtedly in front of someone," said Johnston. "It is my belief that somebody had to see somebody carrying a duffel bag and putting it down beside a truck."
Although they are pursuing this as a murder case, police said area residents have little to fear.
"We have an interstate here that travels between two metropolitan areas," said Johnston. "Frankly, we get thousands of cars a day that come through on the freeway. We are not immune to this; however, it appears clear that this did not happen directly in that parking lot and I see no reason for the public to be concerned in the area."
But Tahoe Donner residents are still shaken by Monday night's events, said Darren Shaw, general manager of the Tahoe Donner Homeowners Association.
"Everyone is obviously concerned and disturbed that this sort of thing happened - and happened so close to home," Shaw said.
Police are looking at surveillance tapes from around town, following up missing-persons reports from out of the area and passing out flyers that may lead to eyewitnesses. Working with the state Department of Justice and other local agencies, the police received 15 to 20 missing person reports from the Bay area and outside of California, said Johnston. The flyers have also turned up some tips, he said.
"Is it a mystery? Absolutely at this point, but that is why we work at it to solve it," he said.
Anyone with information should call the Truckee Police Department at (530) 550-2323. The Northwoods Clubhouse in Tahoe Donner is open today, although part of the parking lot is still taped off.