Homicide detectives were mystified yesterday at how an automobile -- with the body of an unidentified man in the back seat -- ended up in a small reservoir in Northwest Baltimore's Ashburton neighborhood.
The metallic-blue Chrysler LeBaron was spotted under water in Lake Ashburton by a police helicopter observer on routine patrol over the city yesterday. The car was perpendicular, with the driver's side wedged to the bottom of the reservoir, which is surrounded by a 6 1/2 -foot-high wrought-iron fence.
FOR THE RECORD - Articles published yesterday and Tuesday about a car found in Lake Ashburton in Baltimore misidentified Hilton Street. The Sun regrets the error.
"Nobody knows what happened or how the car got there," said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman. "It's being investigated as a suspicious death."
"The mysterious part is that he and the car made it into the lake without breaching the perimeter fence," said homicide Detective Kevin Hagan, who is investigating the case. "There were no tire tracks. It looks as though it went airborne into the lake."
It was uncertain how long the car had been submerged, police said. There were no tire marks near the reservoir and no witnesses to the splash.
The man in the car was described as in his late teens or early 20s and had no obvious injury to suggest he had been shot, stabbed or strangled, Hagan said, as police awaited the results of an autopsy.
"We're pretty sure this is not going to be a homicide," Hagan said.
It is likely the car's launching point was near Hilton Road and Springdale Avenue, Hagan said.
Divers from the city Fire Department plunged into the lake to retrieve the body about noon yesterday.
The car, which had Pennsylvania license plates, appeared to be stolen because the steering column was broken, Hagan said. But police found no registration listing for the vehicle.
Police had to take apart the fence to haul the car out of the reservoir overlooking the city skyline, and a crowd formed to watch the spectacle.
"I've never seen anything like this," said the Rev. Monroe R. Saunders, who has lived a block and a half from the little reservoir for 40 years. "I cannot understand how it might have happened."
Mattie Langley, who can see the reservoir from her front porch, but didn't see the incident, said she was baffled.
"I've never seen a car jump over the fence like that," she said. "It must have been airborne."
Hagan said the scene could have been something straight out of the Dukes of Hazzard, the 1980s television series in which airborne cars were a staple.