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Woman drove with mummified remains in front seat of car for months, Costa Mesa police say

October 21, 2010 |  6:31 pm

Costa Mesa police are investigating a bizarre case in which a woman drove around with a mummified body for months before authorities discovered the corpse while responding to a report of an illegally parked vehicle.

Det. Mike Cohen said they are trying to identify the remains of a Fountain Valley woman believed to be homeless and in her 50s or 60s. He said the dead woman may have had the first name of "Signe."

They also said they are continuing to question the woman who had befriended the transient and let her use her father's car for shelter before she died.

The death did not appear to be the result of foul play, and detectives are trying to figure out why the woman, in her 50s, chose to drive around with a foul-smelling corpse rather than make a report to authorities, Cohen said. He said it appears she had befriended the transient woman for altruistic reasons.

The date of the transient's death was uncertain, but authorities estimate that she could have been in the car from three to 10 months, Cohen said.

All the more bizarre, Cohen said, was the "very calm and very articulate" delivery of the other woman in describing the episode during police questioning.

The case of the mummified remains came to the attention of authorities about 6:40 p.m. Monday when Costa Mesa police responded to an illegally parked vehicle in the 2000 block of Tustin Avenue.

There, officers found the 1997 Mercury Marquis partially blocking an entrance to a home. When they approached the vehicle, they where overpowered by a strong odor. When they looked inside, they spotted a leg underneath clothing in the front passenger seat.

They couldn't find the owner of the vehicle. After breaking into the car, they found a body "seated in a reclined position in the front passenger seat with clothing items covering them."

According to the report, police said "it was evident they had been deceased for some time. The body was found to be in a mummified state."  

Anyone with information about the identity of the dead woman or information that could help investigators is asked to call Costa Mesa police detectives at (714) 754-5178 or (714) 754-5395.

-- Andrew Blankstein

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