BRANDON, Fla. — A missing man from New York could be somewhere in the Tampa Bay area.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office found a blue Chevrolet Equinox engulfed in flames in Brandon early Tuesday morning.
The burned-down SUV, spotted in the 800 block of Russell Lane, belonged to 39-year-old Samuel Ortiz.
"It looked like the fire was started from the inside, the passenger's compartment was completely destroyed, it looks like on purpose," said Joseanett Diaz-Sanchez, a pio with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Ortiz, who was last seen in Rochester, N.Y., had been missing since June 6. He is listed as 5-foot-9 and weighs about 170 pounds. Investigators did not find anyone in the car and said it didn't have a license plate.
"His family just doesn't understand why he would just leave. He has a little kid, she's 9 years old and he takes care of her. He talks to his brother every single day, they see each other, so his brother doesn't understand why he would just leave," Diaz-Sanchez said.
Investigators said Ortiz has previously lived in Florida, but not in the Tampa area. They don't know whether he's alone, where he is or how his vehicle ended up in flames, but said they don't believe he is in danger.
The case is raising questions for neighbors who saw the fire, too.
"I have a lot. I mean we're wondering why this happened, here at this place you know," said resident Denise Burnett.
Anyone with information on Ortiz is asked to call 813-247-8200.