Arrest made after woman lit on fire in upscale neighborhood

AUSTIN, TX – Texas police have apprehended a man in connection to a gruesome case that shocked an affluent Austin suburb earlier this autumn. The victim, Melissa Davis, 33, was discovered on fire at the side of Mesa Drive near Cat Mountain Drive on September 29. Firefighters had initially responded to a 911 call about a grassfire close to a resident’s fence.

On October 25, authorities arrested Andrew Alexander Cole, 45, charging him with one felony count of tampering with physical evidence with intent to impair. Cole is suspected of setting Davis on fire. The severity of the fire damage was such that Davis’ sex and race couldn’t be determined at the scene. Her identity was later confirmed through her fingerprints.

This arrest followed a thorough investigation into the perplexing death of Davis, a graduate of the University of North Texas. Investigators linked Cole to this heinous crime through a combination of cellphone data and surveillance footage. However, the nature of the relationship between Cole and Davis remains unclear.

Security footage showed Davis and Cole together at the La Quinta Inn in South Austin. On the evening of September 28, Davis was seen in her blue Toyota 4Runner following a white Kia, later identified as Cole’s vehicle, into the motel’s parking lot. Davis, who held a master’s degree in sustainable tourism from the University of North Texas, was last seen on camera exiting her SUV and entering the motel with Cole and an unidentified man.

Later that night, Cole was seen leaving the motel multiple times in Davis’ Toyota. The following morning, he was seen on surveillance footage arriving at the back of the La Quinta Inn, opening the trunk of the vehicle, and placing a heavy item inside. Davis’ vehicle was later spotted on home surveillance footage near where her body was found in the Northwest Hills neighborhood.

Firefighters discovered Davis’ body, engulfed in flames, just off the road. Nearby, police found a lighter and detected a strong smell of accelerant. A police K-9 unit also uncovered a butcher knife with a melted handle close to Davis’ charred body. Although the official cause of death is still pending toxicology results, investigators believe Davis was alive when she was set on fire.

Cole is currently held on a $100,000 bond in the Travis County Correctional Complex. He also faces charges in an unrelated case for misdemeanor contempt for allegedly failing to pay child support, with a bond set at $1,800. He is due back in court on November 17.