The man fled the scene and got away, triggering an investigation that closed Peasley Canyon Road near West Valley Highway for nearly 24 hours, frustrating commuters who use the busy roadway.
"This appears to be a homicide," said Capt. Mike Hirman of the Auburn police. "We don't have the body yet. There's a significant amount of blood and some other evidence there that would lead us to believe that it's likely a homicide."
"It's highly unusual and very suspicious," added Dave Colglazier of the Auburn police.
The incident began at about 4 p.m. Wednesday when a uniformed federal agent driving through the area in a marked Department of Homeland Security vehicle spotted smoke coming from a brushy area about 15 feet off the roadway.
The officer pulled over and walked toward the fire with an extinguisher, then spotted a man standing beside a dark SUV near the fire.
When the man saw the federal agent, he jumped in the SUV and fled the scene. The agent attempted to follow the man but he got away.
When the officer returned to the smoky fire, he made a disturbing discovery - the man had been burning flooring material, carpeting, clothing and towels that were covered with blood.
"There was a fair amount of blood on the items that appeared to be cut away from a floor, and towels that appeared to be used to clean up a mess like that," Colglazier said, adding that the man evidently had been trying to destroy the items by burning them.
He said detectives were being methodical and slow as they continued to gather evidence Thursday morning and afternoon - to make sure they miss nothing. The road was closed as investigators combed the scene and finally reopened at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Police now are trying to learn where the blood came from. The Washington State Patrol is assisting in the investigation, and the bloody items will be examined at the WSP crime lab, Colglazier said.
He said it's possible that DNA found on the bloody items may help lead them to the suspect or a victim.
"It's highly unusual and very suspicious based on the material and the condition that it's in," he said, adding that the blood-stained flooring and towels were rolled up inside the carpet.
Hirman said investigators also are checking with other law enforcement agencies "to find out if any sort of violent incident has been reported with regards to a serious assault or homicide."
Auburn Police said their suspect seen fleeing in the SUV was possibly mixed race man, in his late 20's to early 30's, and was between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 10 inches tall with a thin build, short dark hair.
Auburn police are asking anyone who saw him or the dark SUV along Peasly Canyon Road around 2:30 or 3:30 p.m. Wednesday -- or who knows anything about the bizarre incident to call them.
Hirman said police have received a "handful" of tips so far.