A body that was found in an Alameda County landfill on New Year’s Eve was identified Thursday as a local homeless woman, and authorities say she may have climbed into a Dumpster before her death.
A heavy-equipment operator at a Livermore landfill called deputies on Monday after he noticed an anomaly in the large piles of green waste he moved daily.
The body, that of a woman, had been there up to a month and was in the later stages of decomposition, said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators think the woman got into a waste receptacle designed for green waste and later was picked up by a garbage truck and taken to a San Leandro transfer center, where trash is separated, Kelly said. The body then was picked up by a larger garbage truck and taken to the green waste section of the landfill, where trash extends across an area as big as a football field in piles the size of a house, officials said.
“I think the average person would probably have missed it,” Kelly said of the body.
Authorities initially investigated the death as suspicious, saying, “Foul play is often a factor in such cases.”
The coroner’s office said the body was that of a young homeless woman with whom the Sheriff’s Office had had previous contact. Using a technique to rehydrate the fingers of a corpse, the coroner’s office was able to get fingerprints, which helped identify the woman, who likely lived between Oakland and Hayward, Kelly said.
On Thursday morning, officials were in the process of reaching the woman’s family. Her name has not been released to the public yet.
Kelly said the Sheriff’s Office came in contact with the woman “many times,” usually for mental health reasons.
Investigators said the woman might have jumped into the trash bin and overdosed.
“We’re not ruling out homicide,” Kelly said. “But there could be some extenuating circumstances that make this a bizarre turn of events. There may be some mental health issues at play.