GERMANTOWN, Md. - A man has been arrested and is facing charges in the murder of a woman whose body was found inside of a burning vehicle in Montgomery County.
Officers say 29-year-old Stephan Leroy H. Lunningham, of Germantown, was charged with first-degree murder of 49-year-old Angela Fay Thomas, who resided in North Bethesda.
In the early morning hours of March 14, police and firefighters were called to a vehicle fire in a wooded area near the 13700 block of Wisteria Drive in Germantown.
A source familiar with the investigation told FOX 5 that the body was found in the back seat of the car after the fire was extinguished and was so badly burned that it could not immediately be identified.
As the investigation continued, the death of Thomas was ruled a homicide. Authorities identified Lunningham as a suspect and a warrant was issued for his arrest. On the afternoon of March 21, authorities stopped Lunningham on Interstate 495 near Colesville Road and placed him under arrest.
Police say Lunningham admitted to stabbing Thomas after a verbal altercation and then setting the car on fire.
During a bond review Thursday afternoon, there was a loud gasp inside the courtroom from Thomas' family when the prosecutor told the judge the hair stylist had been stabbed more than 30 times in the neck, chest and back before her body was placed in the back seat and driven around the county for two days.
"As one of the prosecutors said in court today, the fact that this individual was allegedly driving around with the body in the car for a day or two makes it that much more troubling,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesperson Ramon Korionoff.
Court documents filed in this case say Lunningham and Thomas knew each another.
Witnesses told police that Thomas was last seen on March 11 at an apartment in Germantown and he was seen with Lunningham. Witnesses also said Lunningham was going to drive Thomas to her apartment in North Bethesda.
But on the morning of March 14, Lunningham was seen at a 7-Eleven store in Germantown where he purchased a small amount of gas in a small red gas can. Twenty minutes later, someone called 911 to report a brush fire where Thomas' Honda Civic was found with her stabbed body in the back seat.
"Angela was my middle daughter. She was a beautiful child inside and out and she didn't deserve what happened to her,” said Edwina Wright, the victim’s mother.
"She has three kids that will spend the rest of their lives missing her terribly as well as hundreds of friends throughout the community who are going to miss her,” said Marshall Thomas. “She was a wonderful person. I love my sister dearly. This is just the beginning for all of us as we try to move through this horrible tragedy.”
According to records, Lunningham was charged with robbery in 2011 and there was an open warrant for an assault against him.