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Police trying to decide whether woman who drove with mummified body in car for months should face arrest

October 22, 2010 |  7:57 am

Authorities are seeking the public's help in learning more about an Orange County woman who drove around with a mummified body for months before authorities discovered the corpse.

Detectives believe the dead woman was a homeless person that the driver befriended at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley -- though detectives are still trying to determine the details of their relationship.

They are also mulling whether the driver should face criminal charges.

Det. Mike Cohen told The Times 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."

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."  

Official told the Orange County Register than they are reviewing health and safety codes to determine whether it is illegal to drive with a corpse.

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