Mercedes Vega

Mercedes Vega is seen on video at 9:15 p.m. leaving her apartment complex in Tempe, Arizona.

In the video Vega is seen walking with her face looking down as if she was on Facetime. Mercedes Vegas is texting multiple people on the night of April 16. And looking at those messages as a whole, she is either going to meet friends for Sushi, meet other friends at “Dave&Busters,”  or, as she indicates in another text, go to work.

In one of her text messages Mercedes Vega says, “I just feel weird, like maybe I shouldn’t go anywhere.”

In the early morning hours of April 17, the Harquahala Fire Department responds to a report of a burning car on the “north hand shoulder” of the I-10 highway, west of Tonopah, Arizona. Firefighters find a 2018 Chevrolet Malibu on fire.

Once the fire is put out, a deceased human body is found in the rear passenger seat.

At 1:15 a.m.  Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies are called to a scene to assist the Arizona Department of Public Safety on a death investigation.  Investigators talk to the man who called law enforcement about the car on fire. Robert Miller tells officials he saw a person walking outside the vehicle.

Using fingerprints, investigators can identify the woman found inside the burning Malibu as 22-year-old Mercedes Vega. The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu in which her body was found, does not belong to Vega. The car has a Salvage Title vehicle registered to State Farm Insurance and the burning car is 60 miles from Vega’s Tempe, Arizona apartment. Mercedes’ 2019, White, Dodge Charger is found illegally parked near First Street and Farmer Avenue, 1.5 miles south of where she lives.

According to her mother, the car is parked while running with the keys in the ignition so it would be stolen or towed.  The MCSO has video surveillance of Vega’s Charger from the time it is left parked on the road until the time police recover it. Vega didn’t park it where it was found.

Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s report states the cause of death was “conflagration, blunt force and ballistic injuries,” and the Manner of Death is Homicide.  The death report also states she has blunt force trauma and gunshot injuries that contributed to her death, and an odor of bleach within the larynx.

The report notes the presence of gloves and bleach found in front of the car and lighter fluid in the backseat.


Sarah Ford – Legal Director, South Carolina Victim Assistance Network; Former Prosecutor focusing on Crimes Against Women and Children; Facebook: “SCVAN Legal Services Program;” Adjunct Professor, Claflin University & South Carolina State University
Robin Dreeke – Behavior Expert & Retired FBI Special Agent / Chief of the FBI Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program; Author: “Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agents Manual for Behavior Prediction;” X: @rdreekeke
Dr. Michelle DuPre – Former Forensic Pathologist, Medical Examiner and Detective: Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Author: “Homicide Investigation Field Guide” & “Investigating Child Abuse Field Guide;” Forensic Consultant
Bianca Buono– Reporter, 12 News (Phoenix, AZ), Twitter: @BiancaBuono

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[Feature Photo: Mercedes Vega/Gilbert Memorial]

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