Investigators in Delaware County know that the man was shot before the vehicle he was driving went out of control in a narrow alley in Lansdowne, then smashed into the rear of a home and exploded into flames.

Late Monday, however, they still had not answered a fundamental question: Who was he?

The man's body was found early Sunday, burned beyond recognition, inside the vehicle in a neighborhood of modest houses, said Police Chief Dan Kortan.

"We're first and foremost trying to identify the body," said Assistant District Attorney Erica Parham.

The vehicle bore a New York license plate, and Parham said county detectives had been in touch with officials in New York and New Jersey, as well as people in the neighborhood.

"At this point," she said, "we can't get a positive identification."

Police were called to the 200 block of North Maple Street about 1:30 a.m. Sunday to respond to a report of multiple gunshots and a car crashed into a garage, said Lansdowne Sgt. Ken Rutherford.

As a precaution, police evacuated homes in the vicinity, but no other injuries were reported.

The alley bisects rows of houses fronting Maple and Wycombe Avenue, and Parham said the location wasn't simply a matter of chance.

On Monday, the rear of the property was quarantined behind police tape. The back wall above the devastated garage was extensively blackened, as though the building had been rammed by a car bomb.

Investigators declined further comment on the investigation.

Contact Anthony R. Wood at 610-761-8423 or