WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) - A Clinton Township man driving from Arizona to Michigan says his girlfriend died in the passenger seat, and he decided to drive the entire way with her body still in the van.
It happened sometime Sunday night.
Ray Tomlinson is devastated and admits he was likely in denial during this disturbing drive.
His 92-year-old mother was also on this cross country trip and he says he was afraid that if he stopped in the middle of nowhere, that he would be arrested.
“I just didn’t want to leave her someplace as a Jane Doe! She was worth more than that,” Tomlinson told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.
The 62-year-old from Clinton Township and his 92-year-old mother spend their winters in Sun City, Arizona, and their summers in Michigan. He says his 31-year-old girlfriend had been institutionalized 9 times in Arizona in the last year for severe mental health and drug problems.
“Every time that she would go into a psych ward, the doctors would change up her medications,” said Tomlinson. He believes his girlfriend accidentally overdosed.
“I stopped once for gas. I just thought she was sleeping, my mother was sleeping… And the next time I stopped for gas, she just didn’t respond,” said Tomlinson through tears Wednesday. “I just kept driving, I’m out in the middle of Podunk or wherever, towns are almost 400 miles apart.”
Tomlinson says his wheelchair-bound mother urged him to get back to Michigan so he could take the body right to the Macomb County Morgue.
“I said if we stop, we’re going to be impounded; we’re going to have to stay in some God forsaken town if they ever even want to release us. So she said, just go,” said Tomlinson.
During the trip, Tomlinson told the Arizona mental hospital what happened, and they called police here.
This is an excerpt from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office dispatch alerting Warren Police:
We have a really unusual situation going on right now. We have a male on the phone that has driven from Arizona and it sounds like he has a deceased female in his car. He was determined to go to the morgue, but we’ve been trying to stop him and pinging his phone.
Police say Tomlinson drove at least 26 hours, arriving finally at his son’s house in Warren after authorities urged him to pull over. His girlfriend was still in the passenger seat with her sunglasses still on.
“Did he use bad judgment – yes. Does it elevate to a criminal act? That will be up the Prosecutor,” said Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green. Green says the body was in very bad shape, especially because the van had no air conditioning.
Tomlinson’s mother is now in the care of Adult Protective Services, and police say she had urinated several times in the van.
“She wasn’t in any misery at all, she had a good ride,” said Tomlinson, showing 7 Action News the inside of his van, which appeared clean inside. Tomlinson denies she was mistreated, and is now mourning his girlfriend.
“She had compassion for others. I’ll miss her,” said Tomlinson.
Tomlinson says his elderly mother is incontinent, and insists he did change her adult diapers multiple times during the trip.
Moving a body in this way is a misdemeanor. It’s not clear yet whether he will be charged with a crime.