Family: Clayton woman found in towed car likely died in crash
Posted April 3, 2013
Smithfield, N.C. — A Clayton woman whose body was found in her crashed car days after it was towed away suffered head and neck trauma and likely died in the crash, her family said Wednesday after talking with investigators.
The preliminary autopsy results quelled the family's concerns that Carolyn Ann Watkins, 62, might have been saved if someone had seen her in the car before it was towed from the crash scene.
Watkins' 2000 Pontiac Sunfire was found in a watery ditch, down a steep embankment off Swift Creek Road, about 4 miles southwest of Smithfield on Friday and was towed to an impound lot, according to a report from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Trooper Marlon Williams, who ordered the car towed, said "no driver (was) at the scene of this collision" in his report. However, Smithfield police found the 62-year-old's body in the driver's seat three days later after family members reported her missing.
"They didn't do their job properly, and we want some answers," Watkins' son, Algernon Parker, said Tuesday.
The Highway Patrol didn't explain to the family why Watkins' wasn't seen in the car earlier. The state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Highway Patrol, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing regret for the situation.
“First and foremost, we offer our most sincere condolences to Carolyn Watkins’ family," Commissioner Frank Perry, who heads the department's Law Enforcement Division, said in the statement. "Our main concern is to conduct a thorough and professional investigation so we can determine exactly what happened."
The Highway Patrol has placed Williams on administrative duty with pay pending the outcome of an investigation by DPS. He has been with the Highway Patrol for nine years. Efforts to contact Williams at his Clayton home Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The State Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday that it is doing a separate, independent investigation into Watkins' death and the trooper's actions.
The Sunfire was still at Dustin's Towing in Willow Spring on Tuesday. It was covered by a tarp, and company representatives said the Highway Patrol had told them not to discuss the case.
Watkins funeral is set for Saturday at St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Maple Hill.