By Karen Frantz
Two men who were found dead in the remains of a brush fire in Howard Beach were identified by authorities Thursday as the NYPD released photos of vehicles believed to be connected to the suspicious deaths.
Police said the men were identified as Rudy Superville, 22, and Gary Lopez, 25, both of Brooklyn.
At a news conference Thursday morning Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the men were probably crime victims.
“I think it’s a fair guess the bodies were brought there from a location where they were murdered and dumped at that location,” he said.
He said there were no known motives at that time.
“It’s still under investigation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NYPD said it was asking the public’s assistance in identifying the occupants of three vehicles wanted for questioning in connection with the men’s deaths. The first was a two-tone dark colored custom van, the second was a four-door light-colored sedan and the third was a four-door dark-colored sedan, police said. Images of the vehicles were taken near 157th Avenue and 83rd Street, police said, which is a few blocks away from where the bodies were discovered.
According to the NYPD, the fire was reported to police at 4:30 a.m. After officials arrived at the scene and put out the blaze, they discovered the bodies of two black men, police said.
The men, whose bodies were discovered early Wednesday, were lying face down, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
A police spokeswoman said it appeared that the bodies were placed inside some kind of plastic bags.
The Queens DA, who visited the fire site, said “the fire was started apparently to cover up the crime.”
Some residents who live near the scene of the fire, at the corner of 159th Avenue and 78th Street in an undeveloped marshy area near the Belt Parkway, said they suspected foul play in the deaths of the two men.
A resident who lives down the street watched as officials from the medical examiner’s office retrieved the bodies from the scorched earth and loaded them into a truck to remove them from the scene.
“It’s probably a Mafia thing or drugs,” he said.
John Toomey, who also lives a few blocks away, said that although the neighborhood was safe, it was not uncommon for someone to be killed elsewhere and brought to the parkland later.
“This is a good dumping ground since it’s out of the way,” he said. “They dump stuff here over the years, you know.”
By 10 a.m. there was a large blackened area near 78th Street, where the fire had raged. Several police and investigators were on the scene and a large portion of the block was roped off.
Peter Navarro, whose house was within the roped off area, was standing on his lawn with his dog on a leash watching the police activity. He said he had been asleep when his daughter burst into his room to tell him about the fire.
“I see through the window,” he said, saying the fire was large. “The firemen come.”
He said they put out the fire quickly and that he was not afraid.
“I see it’s something under control,” he said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.