Man drives cross-country with dead woman in passenger seat
Man and his 93-year-old mother decided to keep driving to get the woman's body to a Michigan morgue
By Elisha Anderson, Gina Damron, and Christina Hall
Detroit Free Press
MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. — It was supposed to be a road trip from Arizona to Michigan for a metro Detroit man, his elderly mother and his girlfriend.
But by the time they arrived in Warren on Monday night, only two were still alive.
A 31-year-old woman had fallen asleep in the front passenger seat of the conversion van and, when they were in either Texas or Oklahoma, the 62-year-old Clinton Township man she was with found she was dead.
Ray Tomlinson told the Free Press in an interview Wednesday that he and his 93-year-old mother decided to keep driving to get the woman's body to the Macomb County morgue.
Police, who did not release Tomlinson's name, said the driver told them he was in a rural, area early Monday morning when the woman slumped forward and was cold to the touch.
"He then does an Internet search via his phone," Warren Police Detective Sgt. Stephen Mills said. "He says he finds on the Internet that he has 48 hours to take her to a medical examiner or to a morgue."
Tomlinson said he broke no law. He said he worried that if he stopped, authorities "would have impounded my vehicle, they would have probably incarcerated me to do an investigation and I had a 93-year-old woman in my car that I needed to get home."
Police are still investigating what happened, but said foul play is not suspected.
Police said they are not ruling out the possibility that the woman, who had several prescriptions filled before the road trip, overdosed on drugs. Tomlinson said he turned over two or three bags of the woman's medications to police and has another one at his home in Clinton Township.
The Free Press is not naming the woman because police said her family has not been notified yet.
The Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office did an autopsy Tuesday, but no cause or manner of death has been determined yet, and toxicology reports are pending, Mills said.
Tomlinson said the woman was homeless when he met her about a year ago. He said he drove her all the way back to Michigan after she died because he didn't want to leave her body at a hospital.
"I cared too much for her," he said.
A New Acquaintance
Tomlinson said he met the woman last year, during "mosquito weather."
He said he met her as she waited for her boyfriend to get out of the Macomb County Jail. He said that, at the time, she was homeless and living in Chesterfield Township.
Tomlinson said he helped her get services she needed. He said the woman, who he said is from New Jersey, stayed with him on and off.
Tomlinson said he went to Arizona. The woman, he said, went to Florida, but eventually traveled by bus to meet him in Arizona, where he said she was hospitalized several times.
He said their relationship eventually blossomed into romance.
"I loved her very much," Tomlinson said.
Before the trip back to Michigan, the woman signed herself out of a medical facility on May 28, according to police. That same day, she had several prescriptions filled, including one for 30 OxyContin, police said.
The bottle was empty when she arrived in Michigan.
The Dash Home
Before the woman's death, the trio stopped for gas in Flagstaff, Ariz. The younger woman got out of the vehicle and may have used the restroom, police said.
Tomlinson said that when he realized the woman was dead, he had a difficult time coming to grips with what had happened.
"I was in total denial," he said.
Authorities learned of the woman's death after an employee at the facility she'd been in in Arizona called the woman's cell phone to ask her if she had made a follow-up appointment in Michigan. The driver answered, explained the situation and was told to stop and contact police, Mills said.
"He says, 'I'm not stopping. I'll get a hold of them when I get to Michigan,' " Mills said.
By the time the van got to Illinois, law enforcement contacted the man and requested that he stop, police said.
Tomlinson has not been charged. That will be a decision for the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office.
Police said the driver cooperated with investigators but could have handled the situation differently.
"As soon as you determine that (a person is) unresponsive, you should pull over and call 911," Mills said. Because there's always a possibility that you perceive them as dead "but they may not be."
Police said the woman's body had started to decompose by the time the man got to a home in the 23600 block of Blackett in Warren.
The woman was found in the passenger seat of the vehicle with her seat belt fastened. She wore a blue tie-dyed tank top and sunglasses, a blanket covered her lap and investigators found a trimmed-off straw in her pocket.
"I just lost a very close friend ," Tomlinson said.
When asked if he would have done things differently, he said, "Yes."
Copyright 2014 the Detroit Free Press