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.