Man drives from Ariz. to Michigan with corpse passenger

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Video report by Shawn Ley, WDIV

Posted on June 5, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Man too afraid to report his girlfriend had died

WARREN, Mich. (AP) -- A Detroit-area man said he refused to tell authorities that his girlfriend had died during a drive to Michigan from Arizona in part because he feared being arrested.

Ray Tomlinson also told the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News that he kept driving after his 31-year-old girlfriend died because he had his elderly mother in the van and wanted to get her home. He said he wanted to get the body to a morgue in Michigan.

"I had a 92-year-old that does not travel very well," said Tomlinson, who has been caring for his mother for 10 years. "The priority was to get her home and in a safe place."

No one has been charged and authorities are awaiting toxicology results from an autopsy.

Tomlinson said he worried that if he stopped, authorities "would have impounded my vehicle, they would have probably incarcerated me to do an investigation."

He told the Free Press he wished he had done things differently.

"I loved her very much," Tomlinson said.

When officers arrived Tuesday at his son's home in Warren, just north of Detroit, Tomlinson was weeping on the curb and his mother was in her wheelchair in the back of the van. The corpse was in the front passenger seat wearing a seatbelt and sunglasses.

"She obviously had been dead for at least 24 hours in screeching heat," said Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green said Wednesday.

Their 1,700 mile journey began Sunday in the Phoenix area after the woman checked herself out of a mental health facility there. The woman, who had a history of substance abuse, may have taken oxycodone, Green said.

Green said the driver tried to wake her but discovered her body was cold and presumed that she had died. He told police he did an Internet search on his cellphone and read that he had 48 hours to take the corpse to a medical examiner or morgue.

As their macabre journey continued, someone at the mental health facility in Arizona called the woman's cellphone, and the driver said the woman couldn't talk because she was dead. The caller told him to immediately contact police.

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WARREN, Mich. (AP) -- A Detroit-area man was so determined to return to Michigan from Arizona that he refused to stop and contact authorities even after one of his passengers died en route, police said Wednesday.

The man, a 62-year-old Clinton Township resident, has not been charged and authorities were awaiting toxicology results from an autopsy performed on the body of the 31-year-old woman who died.

Police did not release the names of the man or the dead woman.

Their 1,700 mile journey began Sunday in the Phoenix area after the woman checked herself out of a mental health facility there. At some point the woman may have taken oxycodone, police said.

When the driver later tried to wake her, he found her body cold to the touch and presumed that she had died.

"He then does an Internet search via his phone," said Warren police Sgt. Stephen Mills. "He says he finds on the Internet that he has 48 hours to take her to a medical examiner or to a morgue."

The information was wrong, Mills said.

"As soon as you determine that (someone is) unresponsive, you should pull over and call 911," Mills told the Detroit Free Press. "Because there's always a possibility that you foresee them as dead but they may not be."

As their macabre journey continued, someone at the mental health facility in Arizona called the woman's cellphone to check up on her. The man answered and explained that the woman was dead. The caller told him to immediately contact police.

"He says, `I'm not stopping. I'll get a hold of them when I get to Michigan,'" Mills said.

The facility filed a missing persons report and police contacted the driver who met them Tuesday - with the body - at his son's home in Warren, just north of Detroit.

The man has not been arrested and the case is under investigation.

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