A 52-year-old woman was found dead in her burning apartment in south Wichita early Friday, and police said her death appears to be the city's first homicide of 2010.
Police were looking for the woman's male roommate at Riverwalk Apartments, 2703 S. Topeka. "He is a suspect," said Lt. Ken Landwehr, who heads the department's homicide unit.
Late Friday police reported that they had found her vehicle, a 1988 brown GMC pickup.
Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the police homicide section at 316-268-4181.
Tips can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers several ways: by phone at 316-268-2111 or 800-222 TIPS (8477); by text message via CRIMES (274637) and beginning the message with TIP217; or by Internet at www.wsccs.com.
The fire was reported at 4:54 a.m., authorities said. Crews responding found smoke pouring from one apartment.
Once inside, they found the woman and carried her outside, where she was pronounced dead.
"It appears she suffered trauma to her head that would not be consistent with the fire," Landwehr said.
Her name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Neighbors told police the woman had lived there for about a month, Landwehr said. No one police had talked to Friday morning reported hearing signs of a disturbance before the fire.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting fire investigators in the case.
The fire itself caused an estimated $50,000 damage to the apartment and its contents, Wichita fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. Occupants of that building were evacuated, he said.
At least a half-dozen people were displaced by the fire, including two who were helped by the American Red Cross.
Given the timing and location of the fire, Bevis said, authorities were relieved that no one else was hurt.
When there's an early morning fire in a house or apartment building, he said, "there' a huge potential for loss of life."
Smoke alarms alerted other residents of the building, allowing them time to escape, he said.