No one has seen or heard from Ross Heimlich in days, and now that his burned-out car has been found behind a Hammonton shopping center with a body in it, his friends fear the worst.
Family of Heimlich, a 23-year-old Camden County College student from Somerdale, declined to comment yesterday afternoon at his home, but a friend said Heimlich drove the 2004 Chrysler Sebring that was torched early Wednesday a block off White Horse Pike in Hammonton.
"Nobody's heard from him," said Rich Conroy, of Stratford, Camden County. "His phone was off and his voice mail was full."
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said it may require more testing to confirm the identity of the white male found burned beyond recognition inside the car, but it declined to comment about specific individuals yesterday.
Heimlich's friends are expecting bad news.
"It's just a really evil thing for someone to do," said Nicholas Kay, of Somerdale. "He was always a positive guy. It looks bad."
Conroy said that the Sebring belonged to one of Heimlich's relatives and that no one has seen him since Tuesday night.
During a news conference Wednesday, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said the victim had suffered blunt trauma to the head and may have been alive when the car was set on fire.
Housel declined to comment on where the Sebring had been traced back to, but he did say that the car appeared to have traveled from Camden County. Sources told CBS 3 that surveillance footage showed the Sebring and another car turn off the White Horse Pike, and that a "flash" was later seen on the footage.
Housel said it appeared that the car had been burning for at least 20 minutes and had exploded before a passer-by on the White Horse Pike called 9-1-1 at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday. The car was parked on Linda Avenue, just yards from a few houses, several stores and a middle school's football field. Heimlich's home is a little more than 20 miles from the scene.
Heimlich graduated from Sterling Regional High School, in Somerdale, in 2006, and was studying biology at Camden County College, according to his Facebook page. Many of his friends had updated their own Facebook pages, expressing grief yesterday.
"I didn't know Ross to have a bad bone in his body," Conroy told the Daily News. "He was just an all around good guy."