Christopher Rosacker

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February 19, 2013
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Details scarce in homeless woman's death

The whereabouts of a woman who lived homelessly in Nevada County remain elusive more than six weeks after she died.

Jennifer Waddell, 42, died Jan. 9 at Sacramento’s Mercy General Hospital. She had been transferred there Jan. 6 from Grass Valley’s Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, according to spokespeople from both facilities.

But the circumstances that led to Waddell’s death and what happened to her body afterward remain sketchy.

Hospital representatives told the Grass Valley Police Department that Waddell’s body remained at Mercy until at least Feb. 15, according to Sgt. Steve Johnson.

But Mercy spokeswoman Becky Furtado told The Union Monday that the remains were no longer at the hospital.

Calls to the Sacramento County Coroner’s office were not answered Monday, which was President’s Day. Coroners there did not have a pending autopsy, reported a representative from that department in late January.

“She did not pass away from the elements,” said Nevada City Police Officer Shane Franssen in a January interview, noting that he had encountered Waddell during her stays at Nevada City’s Pioneer Park last summer. “She had some sort of disease.”

Johnson reported that Waddell’s death was unofficially due to cardiac arrest brought on by sepsis, as indicated to the GVPD by hospital staff. Waddell also reportedly suffered from hypothermia of her toes, Johnson said.

Waddell was last seen by Grass Valley police the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2012, when they responded to a transient complaint on the 200 block of Sutton Way.

“When officers arrived, they located Ms. Waddell,” Johnson told The Union in January. “She seemed to be struggling to walk and saying things that didn’t add up.”

What started as a response to a suspicious subject ended with officers requesting medical assistance for Waddell, he said.

“That was the last we had seen of her,” Johnson said. “We were in the know as a department that she was transported to Sacramento.”

Hospitality House, the county’s largest homeless service agency, had interactions with her, reported its executive director, Cindy Maple.

Johnson indicated that an official cause of death would be forthcoming, assuming Waddell’s remains are examined by the Sacramento County coroner.

As for why Waddell’s body remained at the hospital’s morgue for so long, Johnson could only speculate that she had no next of kin to claim the remains.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated Feb 19, 2013 08:02AM Published Feb 20, 2013 12:02PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.