updated 9/1/2010 2:11:56 PM ET 2010-09-01T18:11:56

A Central California doctor whose decomposing body was found in the chimney of her boyfriend's house died of asphyxiation, a coroner says.

Kern County Sheriff-Coroner spokesman Ray Pruitt determined Tuesday that Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac was unable to breathe in the narrow chimney where she was lodged after apparently trying to get into the Bakersfield home on Aug 25.

Her preliminary cause of death is listed as mechanical asphyxiation, meaning her chest could not expand in the small space.

The doctor, involved in an "on-again, off-again" relationship, apparently tried to force her way into the home by sliding down the chimney, police said Tuesday. Her decomposing body was found there three days later.

Kotarac, 49, first tried to get into the house with a shovel, then climbed a ladder to the roof last Wednesday night, removed the chimney cap and slid feet first down the flue, Bakersfield police Sgt. Mary DeGeare said.

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While she was trying to break in, the man she was pursuing escaped unnoticed from another exit "to avoid a confrontation," authorities said.

DeGeare said the two were in an "on-again, off-again" relationship.

The man's identity was not revealed by police, but the man who resides in the home is William Moodie. He declined to comment when reached Tuesday by The Associated Press, saying police instructed him not to discuss the matter.

Video: Woman dies in chimney while breaking into beau's home (on this page)

Kotarac's body was not discovered until a house-sitter noticed a stench and fluids coming from the fireplace Saturday, according to a police statement. The house-sitter and her son investigated with a flashlight and found Kotarac dead, wedged about two feet above the top of the interior fireplace opening.

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Firefighters spent five hours late Saturday dismantling the chimney and flue from outside the home to extract Kotarac's body, DeGeare said.

Officials said Kotarac's office staff reported her missing two days prior when she failed to show for work. Her car and belongings remained near the man's house.

Foul play was not suspected, though investigators have been looking into the incident as suspicious.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Woman dies in chimney while breaking into beau's home

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