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Man’s Body Found in Lancaster Pillar Was in ‘Advance Stages of Decomposition’ — and His Death Remains a Mystery

A body discovered in a stone pillar outside a Lancaster grocery store was in the "advance stages of decomposition," authorities said Monday as they provided more information about the grim discovery made over the weekend.

Homicide detectives are awaiting the coroner to positively identify the individual, but investigators were able to confirm the remains are those of a man, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The man's body was recovered around 2:40 p.m. Saturday at the WinCo Foods Supermarket, located in the 700 block of West Avenue K.

That morning, the store's manager called a plumber after noticing a strong odor apparently coming from the stone column, believing it to be related to a sewage problem, according to sheriff's Lt. John Corina.

But when the plumber and maintenance personnel began knocking bits of stone away, they made a disturbing find -- a human leg and a tennis shoe, Corina said.

Law enforcement personnel and the coroner's office were called out to the scene to investigate further.

The lieutenant indicated on Saturday that the person found dead in the column may have been a car theft suspect who eluded capture earlier in the week.

Last Monday, deputies had attempted to pull over a driver who was behind the wheel of a stolen car, according to Corina.

The driver did not yield, instead running from the vehicle and into the WinCo supermarket, he said. Deputies followed the man onto the store's roof, but they were unable to locate him.

Corina noted there is an access door on the roof that leads to the stone columns where the body was found, although deputies who checked the door didn't find anybody there at the time.

"We're thinking this could be that individual. Maybe he got inside, thought the deputies were after him so he went down the column trying to hide and couldn't get out," the lieutenant said. "Somebody tries to hide from the police and they can't get out and end up dying in there."

The columns were described as being "pretty thick," making it unlikely anyone could have heard the man if he yelled for help. Investigators are still unsure how long he was trapped inside before dying.

With temperatures hitting at least 100 degrees, it was likely "baking" inside that pillar, according to Corina.

"Horrible way to die," he told KTLA.

The lieutenant indicated there were signs the body had already started decomposing when investigators made the gruesome discovery.

"You see seepage from the bottom of the column where blood and body fluids were seeping out," Corina said.

Investigators were later able to confirm that the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition, according to the release.

Still, it's how long it will take for the coroner to identify the individual; the medical examiner's office still did not have the man's name as of early Tuesday afternoon.

A cause of death has also yet to be released.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or -- to leave a tip anonymously -- dial Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

KTLA's Sarah Fenton contributed to this story.