Questions raised after man's body found near school

by: Tina Terry Updated:

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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - A Charlotte man's death is prompting a lot of questions from his family, neighbors and investigators in Rowan County.

The man's burned body was found next to an elementary school in China Grove Friday night, moments after emergency workers went there for a fire.

"People around here don't lock their doors, but they do now," said Connie Gray. 

She left her home in China Grove last night around 8 p.m. and passed the wooded area next to Millbridge Elementary school.  That's where she spotted the fire.

"At first it was probably about my height," Gray said.

She called 911, took a closer look at the fire and made a horrific discovery.

"I thought it was a dummy from Halloween, but it was a body," she said.

She also noticed a gas can nearby, melting in the fire. Eyewitness News cameras caught firefighters working late into the night cleaning up.  Investigators identified the man as 39-year-old Erasmo Jimenez of Charlotte.  They couldn't say how he died, but hoped an autopsy would unravel more answers.

Saturday the victim's family members comforted each other at the scene.  They described Jimenez as a good man and father of three kids.  They told investigators he worked in Statesville as a landscaper and they had no idea why he was in that area Friday night.

Friday some neighbors said they were hoping for answers soon.

"By a school where little children are, it's just scary my little girl goes here, so it's just devastating," said Lucy Ferguson.

Rowan County's Sheriff’s Office said Jimerez had no criminal history.  He said the autopsy would determine the cause of death and the results were expected back in a few days.