Body in burned car sparks mysterious investigation with ties to Johnson City & Russia


GRANT COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – Investigators are six months into trying to unravel a mysterious death that started near Medford, Okla., took them to Johnson City, Tenn., and now goes as far as Russia.

“It’s a very strange circumstance with a lot of unanswered questions at this point,” said Grant County Sheriff Scott Sterling.

It began in May, when a trucker traveling along Highway 11 west of Medford saw a fire on the side of the road. When he pulled over to get a better look, he discovered it was a car on fire and called 911.

“The car was completely burnt beyond recognition. I mean, it was completely incinerated,” Sterling said. “It was just a shell.”

In the driver’s seat were the burned remains of a man. Next to the car was a gas can.

“This may or may not be a homicide,” Sterling said.

That’s when the OSBI and the fire marshal were called in to assist.

“Right now, we have that vehicle tied to a Russian national who was living in Tennessee,” said OSBI spokesperson Brook Arbeitman. “But we haven’t positively identified the victim in the car at this time.”

The car is registered to 53-year-old Vladimir Efimov. The Russian native moved to the United States on a visa in 1999, but investigators don’t know why.

In 2004, he moved to Johnson City, so investigators reached out to police there.

“They had spoken with the registered owner’s landlord who notified police that he had received a letter from the registered owner of this vehicle a couple days prior, stating that he was moving out of the apartment and here was last months rent. That he had lost his job,” Sterling said.

A neighbor confirmed he moved out a day or two before the car was found burning in Oklahoma.

Sheriff Sterling said Efimov held a few jobs since moving to the U.S., but that hasn’t led to answers.

“They`re having a hard time confirming actually where his employment was or locating any of his employment records,” Sterling said.

Investigators haven’t found out if he has any family in the U.S. or even in Russia whose DNA could be used to help identify the charred remains.

“If it is him, he doesn’t have any ties to Oklahoma,” Arbeitman said.

Investigators have submitted search warrants for cell phone data that could help track Efimov’s travel patterns.

In the meantime, it’s a puzzle that won’t be solved until Efimov is found alive and the body in the car is identified to be him or someone else, and investigators discover why it was left burning in the middle of rural Grant County.

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