March 07. 2013 10:09PM

Body found in burning, abandoned Exeter plant

Union Leader Correspondent

Police placed yellow crime scene tape around a Hyundai Elantra parked outside the abandoned City Concrete building in Exeter. Firefighters responding to a fire in the building discovered a body inside the plant. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EXETER - The state Attorney General's Office is calling suspicious the death of a woman whose body was found Thursday morning inside an abandoned concrete plant.

The grisly discovery was made by firefighters when they responded around 7 a.m. to reports of a fire on the second floor of the former City Concrete building at 2 Hampton Road.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell would not identify the woman or reveal how she died, saying only that it's being treated as a "death investigation."

A ladder truck from the Exeter Fire Department returned to the scene shortly before 6 p.m. to assist in removing the body. Given the age and condition of the plant, an official with the state fire marshal's office said the stairs leading to the second floor were unsafe. An autopsy is expected to be performed today.

Investigators spent much of Thursday searching around the concrete plant, which closed some 20 years ago.

Police wrapped yellow crime scene tape around a dark gray Hyundai Elantra with New Hampshire license plates parked at the entrance to the plant and later put a tent over the vehicle and tarps around it. Passersby said it had been parked there since early Thursday morning.

Fire Chief Brian Comeau said the fire was small. It was considered suspicious from the start because it occurred in a vacant building with no electricity.

State police arrived just before 8:30 a.m. to assist Exeter police, followed by investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office and later the state police Major Crime Unit.

By late morning, investigators began focusing their attention on a dumpster outside the Exeter Recreation Center, which is next door. They appeared to be searching for evidence and at one point placed a tarp over the top.

State police later spent about an hour searching a black Honda parked across the street at Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics. At one point, a man who was seen in the area of the plant was placed in a police cruiser.

He left in the Honda after it was searched.

The scene at the concrete plant startled Angie Estright, who works at Myers Chiropractic Clinic across the street. She noticed the fire on her way to work just before 7 a.m.

"I could see flames and smoke pouring from the windows," she said.

Police are known to patrol the old plant on a routine basis, often parking their cruisers at the entrance.

"Everybody in the area knows that," she said.