WARREN, MI - A Detroit-area man was so determined to return to Michigan from Arizona that he refused to stop and contact authorities even after one of his passengers died en route, police said Wednesday.
62-year-old Ray Tomlinson has not been charged and authorities are awaiting toxicology results from an autopsy performed on the body of his 31-year-old girlfriend who died.
Their 1,700 mile journey began Sunday after the woman checked herself out of an Aurora Behavioral mental health facility in Glendale. At some point the woman may have taken oxycodone, police said.
Tomlinson says his girlfriend had been institutionalized nine times in Arizona in the last year for severe mental health and drug problems.
Tomlinson thought she was sleeping when he left a gas station in Flagstaff and when he later tried to wake her, found her body cold to the touch.
“I just figured she was sleeping, and the next time I stopped for gas she just didn’t respond,” Tomlinson said through tears.
"He then does an Internet search via his phone," said Warren Police Sgt. Stephen Mills. "He says he finds on the Internet that he has 48 hours to take her to a medical examiner or to a morgue."
The information was wrong, Mills said.
As their macabre journey continued, someone at the mental health facility in Arizona called the woman's cell phone to check up on her. Tomlinson answered and explained that the woman was dead.
The caller told him to immediately contact police and also called 911. Officers contacted him and continued to monitor his drive after refusing to stop.
"He says, `I'm not stopping. I'll get a hold of them when I get to Michigan,"' Mills said.
Tomlinson’s 92-year-old mother was also in the car the entire ride. The two spend their winters in Sun City, Arizona and their summers in Michigan.
He says his wheelchair bound mother urged him to get back to Michigan so he could take the body right to the 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,'” explained Tomlinson.
Police say Tomlinson drove at least 26 hours arriving finally at his son’s house in Warren, Michigan after authorities urged him to pull over.
His girlfriend was still in the passenger seat with her sunglasses still on and police say the body was in especially bad shape because the van had no air conditioning.
Adult Protective Services now have Tomlinson’s mother after police say she had urinated several times in the van.
Tomlinson has not been arrested and the case is under investigation.
The Aurora Behavioral Mental Health facility in Glendale issued the following statement Wednesday:
“Due to HIPAA policy and to protect the privacy and the confidentiality of our patients, we cannot confirm or deny whether an individual is or has been a patient at our facilities.
If any local law enforcement agency calls upon our assistance to aid in an investigation or an incident, we fully cooperate with our first responder community partners in any way possible.”