Death of UF student found in fire viewed as homicide
Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 7:31 p.m.
The death of a University of Florida student is being investigated as a homicide as detectives tried Tuesday to gather evidence from her car and other sources.
Saleha Huuda's car
- 2001 Nissan Sentra
- Painted titanium silver
- License plate No. 778 HRB
- Tinted windows
- Aluminum rims
- After market headlights
- UF cheerleading sticker in rear window
The body of Saleha Huuda, 21, was found early Thursday on County Road 225 just north of the Gainesville Raceway.
"We obviously think it's a homicide, and that is how we are working it, but we haven't got the paperwork back from the medical examiner yet," said Alachua County sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey.
Huuda's 2001 Silver Nissan Sentra was found Monday in the 1500 block of Southwest 42nd Street. The car was searched for clues that could lead to a breakthrough.
"The car is in our forensics garage, and they are going over it with a fine-tooth comb," Forgey said.
The autopsy is expected to show what caused Huuda's death and whether she died before the fire or as a result of the fire.
Immediate family members of Huuda declined to talk about the case when contacted Tuesday by The Sun, a family member said.
Huuda was a University of Florida undergraduate and a graduate of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. She was a senior majoring in family, youth and community sciences at UF and planned to attend graduate school for nursing, her cousin Danielle Agyemang said on Monday.
Huuda was a member of UF's competitive club cheerleading squad and had cheered at P.K. Yonge.
Gabriela Cisneros, vice president of the squad, said Huuda had been her flyer -- the woman who is tossed in the air. Huuda was on the squad last year.
"She was just full of life -- outgoing, fun, active, she was always in a good mood. You never heard any negativity come out of her mouth," Cisneros said. "She was really dedicated to cheering. She came out for everything -- all of the fundraisers and public events that we did."
Investigators say that determining how the car got to where it was found might help figure out what happened to Huuda.
"It did not drive itself to where it was found," Forgey said.
The car was recently painted titanium silver and has after-market headlights. A UF cheerleading sticker in the rear window is another detail deputies released in hopes it will jar someone's memory about seeing the car.
A passerby called 911 at 2:40 a.m. Thursday to report a brush fire that was about the size of a car, Forgey said. Mark Smith of Alachua County Fire Rescue said a Gainesville Fire Rescue crew was dispatched when the call came in because it was the closest unit. A brush truck from Waldo also was responding but was called off because the fire was easily extinguished.
Firefighters discovered the body and called law enforcement.
The fire was on the west side of CR 225 just off the road. A police dog, possibly one trained to sniff for fire accelerants, assisted investigators.
The incident was in a wooded area with no homes in the immediate vicinity. Anyone with information about the car or about Huuda's death may call the Sheriff's Office at 955-1818. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 372-STOP (7867), and they may be eligible for a reward of as much as $1,000.