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Body Found In Burning Tent

The body of a 51-year-old woman was found in a burning tent near Scottsburg early Thursday morning, according to Sheriff Stanley Noblin.

Firefighters were called to a reported car fire at 4155 Bethel Road at 7:22 a.m. Thursday. When they arrived, firefighters found a tent on fire next to an old bus and several other vehicles, Noblin said.

When the fire was extinguished, firefighters discovered the badly burned body of a woman inside the makeshift shelter, Noblin said.

Fire officials notified the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police of their discovery.

The state police investigative unit processed the scene, the sheriff said. First Sgt. Larry Bishop of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations said Cynthia Sells died from injuries she received in the fire.

Sheriff’s Investigator T. R. Spencer also was called to the scene. Neighbors informed Spencer that the woman had been living in the tent and the surrounding vehicles for approximately six years, Noblin said. The woman apparently had no heat other than candles, he added.

First Sgt. Bishop said the fire appeared to have started as the result of a candle. “From the best we can determine the fire started from candles that she was using to heat or cook with,” Bishop said. “Something flammable ignited, and a fire ensued. She succumbed to the fire,” he added.

Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene with five firefighters, according to a fire department spokesman.

One of the Scottsburg firefighters was returning one of Clover Volunteer Fire Department’s trucks to Clover, and he responded to the scene with Clover’s truck, the spokesman said. One firefighter each from Clover, South Boston and Halifax also responded to the fire, for a total of eight firefighters.

They remained on the scene for approximately one hour extinguishing the fire, the fire department spokesman said.

The body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond for autopsy, Sheriff Noblin said.

Virginia State Police assisted the sheriff’s department in the investigation of the fire, and that investigation is continuing, he added.