CHICAGO (CBS) — A woman found burning inside a North Side neighborhood garage Thursday morning was strangled and beaten to death, an autopsy determined.

Firefighters were called at 9:53 a.m. Thursday to a garage fire at 5039 N. Clark St. and found the victim dead, according to Fire Media Affairs spokesman Richard Rosado.

She was identified as Maria Santiago, 54, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

An autopsy Friday determined she died of strangulation and multiple blunt trauma from an assault, according to the medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled a homicide.

She was burned on her legs and torso, and it appeared someone had thrown charcoals at her, possibly to start a fire in an attempt to cover up the murder, a police Bomb & Arson Section sergeant said. Nothing else inside the garage was burning.

Someone called 911 because they saw smoke coming from the garage, the sergeant said.

There were no vehicles inside the garage, only a food cart of the type used by neighborhood merchants.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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