Thus far, no arrests have been made in the death of 23-year-old Bobbie Renee Simpson, whose body was found burning in a fire near a walking trail in Upper Arlington’s Burbank Park on Oct. 14.
Simpson’s body was taken to the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, where an autopsy was to be conducted to determine the cause of death.
She was not a resident of Upper Arlington, according to a news release from Upper Arlington police community relations officer Bryan J. McKean. He declined to say where Simpson lived, citing the ongoing investigation.
Simpson previously lived near Groveport and had attended schools in the Groveport Madison and South-Western districts, records show.
Jessica Efird, 44, of Upper Arlington was out for a morning walk when she and a neighbor who was walking her dog saw a fire in a wooded ravine just off the entrance to Burbank Park in the 4700 block of Stonehaven Drive. Efird called 911 at 8:41 a.m. Oct. 14.
When the dispatcher asked what was burning, Efird initially said it appeared to be wood and brush and told him, “You can’t miss it.”
A few moments later, though, Efird said: “It looks like there’s a mannequin ... I don’t know, sir, it kinda looks like there’s a mannequin or a body in there, God forbid.”
Efird then asked her neighbor, “Do you see that, ma’am? Those legs. Oh, my God.” She told the dispatcher she hoped it was a Halloween dummy.
Upper Arlington police and firefighters went to the park in the northwest section of the city and found the burning body. Firefighters extinguished the flames.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is assisting Upper Arlington police in the incident, which is labeled in a police report as arson and abuse of a corpse.
McKean stopped short of calling Simpson a victim Oct. 15, referring to her rather as the “individual” found in the park.
“Because the investigation is still in its infancy, we’re just not ready to classify her,” McKean said.
“The death is still listed as suspicious.”
McKean wouldn’t say if the woman had been reported missing before her body was found.
He also wouldn’t say if there were any suspects.
“I think asking questions about a suspect at this time is premature,” he said.
Franklin County Municipal Court records indicate that Simpson lived on the streets of Columbus and had been charged three times in the past year with soliciting prostitution along the Sullivant Avenue corridor in the Hilltop: on Nov. 10, July 11 and Aug. 23, according to court records. She was convicted in the 2017 case and served six days in jail. The July case was dismissed by the judge, and the August case was pending at the time of her death.
In all three cases, Simpson was cited for offering intercourse for $40 or $50 to an undercover Columbus police vice unit detective, court records show.
The undercover officer in the November 2017 case was Andrew Mitchell.
Mitchell was suspended Sept. 26 because of an investigation by the FBI into the Columbus police vice unit. He was under investigation for fatally shooting Donna Castleberry, 23, in an undercover police car Aug. 23 in Franklinton after she stabbed him in his hand with a knife.
A week before the shooting, a criminal complaint had been filed against the 30-year career officer, police said.
Vice detective Lowell Whitt worked the July case involving Simpson and vice detective Darryl McKissick was the undercover officer in the August case, court records show.
Simpson was 5-foot-2 and weighed 120 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Anyone who might have seen her recently or has any information relative to the incident is asked to call Upper Arlington police at 614-583-5160.
ThisWeek reporter Nate Ellis contributed to this story.