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A man drove most of the way from Phoenix to the Detroit area this week with a corpse for company, authorities say.
Ray Tomlinson told NBC station WDIV that he picked up a 31-year-old woman after she checked out of a mental health facility in Phoenix, near where he and his 92-year-old mother spend winters. On Sunday, the three of them set out in his van for Warren, Mich., 1,900 miles away.
Tomlinson, 62, said that they were in New Mexico on Monday when he couldn’t wake the younger woman, described as his girlfriend, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.
He nudged her. "I just said, you know, you want something? And at this point in time she was stiff," Tomlinson told WDIV. "There wasn't jerking or moans or groans, or cries for help, she just fell asleep."
But he said he checked the internet on his phone and found he had 48 hours to get her to a morgue.
"I can just take her to the Macomb County morgue, because that was my plan," he said.
Then someone at the mental health facility called the woman’s phone to check on her. Tomlinson told them she was dead.
"I just drove and drove, and I knew I'd be in some kind of trouble," Tomlinson told WDIV.
He was. The facility called the police and they met Tomlinson on Tuesday in Warren.
So why didn’t he just stop? Tomlinson told WDIV that he wanted to get his mother home and was worried that police might impound his van.
“There is no crime. It’s not illegal for carrying a body across the country,” he said.
Still, Tomlinson’s mother was taken into protective custody and prosecutors are considering whether he should face a misdemeanor charge of failure to produce a body, WDIV said.
The woman had substance abuse problems and may have taken oxycodone during a bathroom stop in Flagstaff, Ariz., Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green told The Associated Press.
"We're guessing she might have overdosed," Green said.
The county medical examiner’s office is waiting on toxicology tests to determine what killed her.
"It's strange to think someone could drive 26 hours with a dead person sitting next to them,” Green told WDIV.