Medical examiners have identified a mummified corpse that was left in a car's passenger seat for 10 months in Southern California, a police spokesman said Friday.
Authorities had said earlier it could take weeks to identify the homeless woman, but the Orange County coroner's office was able to rehydrate the desiccated body's fingertips to obtain a usable fingerprint, said Costa Mesa police Detective Sgt. Paul Beckman. The office will not release the name until next-of-kin are notified, he said.
The woman's remains, discovered Monday in a car parked illegally in Costa Mesa, are little more than skin and bones and weigh 30 pounds, said police Sgt. Ed Everett.
The car's driver befriended the homeless woman in a park in nearby Fountain Valley and told her she could sleep in the car. When she found the woman dead in the passenger seat, she was afraid to tell police, Everett said.
The driver is a 57-year-old former real estate agent from Corona del Mar, an upscale beach community, who herself had fallen on hard times and was living with friends, he said.
Authorities have not determined if the driver, whose name has been withheld, will face any charges in the case.
An autopsy showed no signs of trauma. Toxicology reports could take six weeks or more, Everett said.
"We would obviously be looking at what laws deal with the transportation of bodies. Ultimately, this is still an undetermined death," Beckman said. "There's still a vast amount of investigation necessary."
The woman whose car she died in last saw her in December, but it wasn't immediately clear when she discovered the body, Everett said.
The driver had placed a box of baking soda in the car to mask the smell and covered the body with a blanket and some clothes, he said.
Officers found it Monday when they noticed a stench while responding to a call about an illegally parked vehicle.