The death of a 45-year-old lawyer discovered inside the trunk of a burning car last week has been ruled a homicide, D.C. authorities said yesterday.

Police identified the victim as Eric N. Miller of Fairfax County, a lawyer who left the Securities and Exchange Commission in May. Miller was found in the trunk of a burning Ford Taurus about 2 a.m. Aug. 31 in the 900 block of Third Street, near an abandoned housing development in Southeast Washington, police said.

The city medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide caused by a beating to the head and "charring in a flash fire," authorities said.

No one has been arrested. Law enforcement sources said detectives are investigating the possibility that the killing was tied to drugs or a debt. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they are not authorized to comment on active investigations.

Miller's father, A. Melvin Miller, a prominent Alexandria lawyer and chairman of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said the family learned of the death late last week. The father, also a former chairman of the Alexandria School Board, declined to comment further yesterday.

A memorial service for Eric N. Miller was held yesterday at Zabriskie Chapel of Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria.

Miller was a lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1999 through May 14, a commission spokesman said. It was unclear where he had been working in recent months.

Miller was married and had two children. He attended St. Stephen's Episcopal School for Boys and graduated from Amherst College and Harvard University Law School. He was an avid rugby player, a Little League coach and a Sunday School teacher, according to the memorial service program.

D.C. police spokesman Joe Gentile referred calls about the case to Capt. C.V. Morris, who leads the department's homicide unit. Morris did not return telephone calls or pages yesterday.