Police know identity of mummified body

COSTA MESA — Costa Mesa police on Friday identified the homeless Fountain Valley woman whose dead body was driven around in a car for up to 10 months, but have declined to release her name.

Investigators are referring to the woman only as "Signe," a transient in her 50s or 60s, pending notification of next of kin and determining the cause of death.

The case began Monday evening after a Costa Mesa police cadet was responding to a complaint of a parked car blocking a driveway in the 2000 block of Tustin Avenue.

When the cadet approached the 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis, a strong odor was detected.

An officer came to the scene and broke a window to get inside. They discovered the mummified corpse under a pile of jackets and clothes in the passenger seat, and a box of baking soda near it to help cover up the smell.

The body weighed about 30 pounds because it had been decomposing for so long, with remains leaching into the clothes, car seats and floorboards.

Police found the driver, a former real estate broker in Corona del Mar, who said she had offered Signe the car as a place to sleep overnight. The last time the driver saw Signe alive, police said, was December 2009.

From some time after that until Monday, the driver had been using the car and left the woman's body there next to her, police said.

Authorities are considering seeking charges against the driver for not reporting the death and moving a body. No arrests had been made.

An autopsy did not reveal a cause of death. Toxicology results are expected in six to eight weeks.

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