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Woman stays with body of Independence homicide victim until police arrive

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A call about a fatal car wreck turned into a homicide investigation when Independence police discovered the victim died from a gunshot wound.

Independence police are looking for the public's help to find out who killed 23-year-old Phillip Diaz, and why.

A neighbor who asked FOX 4 not to reveal her identity found Diaz's body in the parking lot.

"It was gruesome. It was very, very sickening," she said.

Police say someone called 911 about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, saying a man was hit by a car and laying in the parking lot of the Hawthorne Place Apartments at E. 5th Street North and N. Peck Court. When they arrived, they realized the victim had been shot.

The neighbor said she ran over to help Diaz after she saw a silver Pontiac speed down the street. She requested not to appear on camera because she said she and the driver made eye contact.

She said she was on her way to the store when she saw what she initially thought was a pile of clothes laying in the parking lot.

"I picked him up, and I seen more blood. More blood," she recalled. "I was going to check for a pulse. There was just no, there was just no -- you could tell he was gone. His lips were purple. His face was blank. His eyes were open. It was a sad sight to see."

She said she didn't know Diaz, but he was a familiar face in the neighborhood. She stayed with his body until police arrived, and visited with his family to explain what she saw.

"I knew he was gone, so I just sat there and stayed with him because if it was my child, I would want someone to be there," she explained. "They just wanted to know the truth. They just wanted to know exactly what happened, where this happened, and as many details, they don't care. They want to know."

If you have information about this case call the TIPS hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.