06/03/2012 01:46 pm ET

Vekol Valley Killings: 5 Burned Bodies Found In Smoldering SUV

A burned-out SUV found in the southern Arizona desert this Saturday contained 5 unidentified bodies.

The SUV had last been seen at about 4:30 a.m. that same day on a highway about 60 miles south of Phoenix, according to CNN.

Border Patrol officers had attempted to pull over the white Ford Excursion, KPAX reports, but the vehicle sped away and eluded the agents.

Later in the day, authorities located tracks near the place they had originally seen the SUV. They followed the tracks two to three miles through the Vekol Valley desert before discovering the smoking vehicle.

Officers approached the SUV with fire extinguishers, then realized that five badly-burned bodies, "clearly deceased" were inside. One body was in the second row of seats, the other four in the cargo compartment.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau believes the deaths were most likely the product of drug cartel violence. The Vekol Valley is known as a "smuggling superhighway," and is one of the busiest--and most dangerous--drug corridors in the United States.

"Clearly these people were murdered," Babeau told the Associated Press, though he noted investigators have not yet determined the cause of death.

Investigators are currently interested in whether or not the victims were alive when the fire started, he said.