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Identity of body found in car still unknown

Authorities think she may have been a transient in Fountain Valley.

October 21, 2010|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

Costa Mesa — A mummified body found in a car in Costa Mesa is likely that of a Fountain Valley transient who may have been dead for up to 10 months, police said Wednesday.

The female body was found Monday evening inside a parked sedan on Tustin Avenue.

The corpse was in the front passenger seat, somewhat covered by jackets and other clothing, investigators said.

Police found the body after a parking enforcement attendant received a call about a car blocking a driveway on the residential street. When the attendant approached the sedan, they saw part of the deceased woman's leg from underneath the clothes.

At first, police and coroner's officials couldn't tell if the body was male or female or how old the person was when he or she died.

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An autopsy performed Tuesday found that the remains likely belonged to a woman, but police still have no knowledge as to her identity. The woman was believed to be in her 50s or 60s. The driver knew the transient as Signe.

Police said the car owner's daughter had been driving the vehicle and months ago let the transient sleep in it overnight. Somewhat later, the transient died and the woman continued using the car with the body in the passenger seat for three to 10 months

The driver had parked the car there while staying with a friend who lived nearby, police Sgt. Ed Everett said.

Police aren't investigating the discovery of the remains as a homicide, Everett said.

Officers described the body as mummified because of its leathery appearance and lack of decomposition.

Because the body was in a car, and with the fluctuations in weather, it didn't decay like most bodies and instead became somewhat preserved, Everett said.

"She looked like a mummy, something you'd see out of a National Geographic," Everett said. "I've never seen anything along these lines."

The woman's remains leached into the clothes, car seat and floor boards, and a strong odor was emanating from the car, police said.

Apparently, the driver didn't want to report the death to authorities, he said.

Police are considering seeking charges for her not reporting the death.

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