Cops: Embalmed head may be that of woman with heart ailment

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2015 3:51 PM
Cops: Embalmed head may be that of woman with heart ailment

ECONOMY, Pa. (AP) — A woman whose embalmed head was found in the western Pennsylvania woods more than a year ago may have died of a heart ailment, police said Monday.

Tests run on the woman's hair at the FBI Forensic Lab in Quantico, Virginia, showed traces of lidocaine and atropine — drugs used to treat acute heart ailments — in her system, Economy police Chief Michael O'Brien said at a news conference.

The woman's head was found Dec. 12, 2014, by a boy walking through the woods in the borough about 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. But police have yet to determine who the woman is or why her head was severed from her body after it was embalmed.

Authorities performed a burial service for the head at Beaver Cemetery on Saturday, the anniversary of the head's discovery. They called a news conference Monday in hopes the publicity from the burial would help them disseminate the latest information on the case.

"Her identity is a priority of this investigation," O'Brien said.

Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said a Salt Lake City company, IsoForensics Inc., was hired to test isotopes found in the woman's body. Those substances are elements that form in human bodies due to the food and drink a person consumes, and can form combinations unique to certain geographic areas.

Those tests suggest the woman moved several times in the months before she died, which means she might have been in the care of various family or friends, Berosh said.

In general, the tests showed the woman likely lived somewhere in the Allegheny Mountain region, including western Pennsylvania, but stretching as far north as eastern New York and Lake Ontario, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and Maryland, or western and central Pennsylvania.