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Family: Clayton woman's body left in towed car after wreck

Posted April 2, 2013
Updated April 3, 2013

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— Relatives of a Clayton woman said Tuesday that her body was found in her car days after it ran off a highway and was towed off.

Carolyn Ann 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.

The report states "no driver (was) at the scene of this collision."

Watkins, 62, was last seen Thursday, and her family started searching for her on Saturday, said her son, Algernon Parker. After the family reported her missing to the Smithfield Police Department on Monday, when she failed to show up at work, authorities found her body in the driver's seat of the Sunfire.

"They were looking for her pocketbook and the keys, and when they started searching, that's when they found the body in the car," Parker said.

The Highway Patrol didn't explain to the family why Watkins' wasn't seen in the car earlier.

"They didn't do their job properly, and we want some answers," Parker said.

The state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Highway Patrol, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing regret for the situation.

Trooper M.D. Williams, missed dead woman's body in car Trooper who missed body in car placed on desk duty

“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."

Trooper M.D. Williams, who ordered the car towed, has been placed on administrative duty with pay pending the outcome of an investigation by DPS and the State Bureau of Investigation, officials said. He has been with the Highway Patrol for nine years.

Efforts to contact Williams at his Clayton home Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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.

Parker and other relatives are furious, saying Watkins might still be alive if Williams had checked the car thoroughly before having it towed.

"The only reason I'm upset is the way she was left in that car. She could've been living," said her daughter-in-law, Patricia Parker. "If they would've got her out like they should have, medical attention could've taken care of what was wrong with her."

190 Comments

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  • lissad821 Apr 4, 4:34 p.m.

    Sorry but I've zoomed in to 700% and I can't see anything. I think it is your mind playing tricks on you. If her body was that visible then the person taking the picture would have seen it.

  • miyata Apr 3, 3:58 p.m.

    Wow...this is very sad, very sad. A couple of the comments are correct you can see her face in the windshield. That's really awful.

  • TAKES_TO2_TANGO Apr 3, 3:58 p.m.

    TAKES_TO2_TANGO - do you even know where her body was? NO you don't nobody outside the family and Police know that. If you have every worked a wreck scene then you could understand this situation better. So if she did something to cause herself to wreck and then laid there and died is it still the troppers fault? Let's wait until they know the time and cause of death before you judge the trooper.
    SouthernBornSouthernBred

    Maye you should think BEFORE you speak. The situation is that she deserved better than to be left in a car for that long regardless of when and how she died! It is THE TROOPER'S FAULT for her being in the car THAT LONG and not checking the accident scene properly. PERIOD.

  • dbgoodyear2010 Apr 3, 3:33 p.m.

    Just zoom in on the passenger side windshield where she impacted and cracked it, you can see the body and face.

  • gordonbabe Apr 3, 3:23 p.m.

    Exigent circumstances (the wreck itself) would give the trooper the right to search the car

  • dbgoodyear2010 Apr 3, 3:00 p.m.

    ok moderators, if you don't want to print that the body is in the windshield so people can see for themselves how easy it was to see her, have one of your so-called journalists check it out for themselves and tell me I'm wrong.

  • dbgoodyear2010 Apr 3, 2:59 p.m.

    Southern bred - You stated if she was alive, she could have moved or yelled to get attention. Apparently you don't believe a person can be alive and unconcious, unable to move or yell. The autopsy will tell when she died and if she died over the weekend, i hope the officer is charged whith negligenent manslaughter.

  • SouthernBornSouthernBred Apr 3, 2:53 p.m.

    TAKES_TO2_TANGO - do you even know where her body was? NO you don't nobody outside the family and Police know that. If you have every worked a wreck scene then you could understand this situation better. So if she did something to cause herself to wreck and then laid there and died is it still the troppers fault? Let's wait until they know the time and cause of death before you judge the trooper.

  • SouthernBornSouthernBred Apr 3, 2:44 p.m.

    doghousebrewery - Wow twist words around much? I did not say if she was unconscious, if she was unconscious she wouldn't be able to try to get out. But if she was alive/awake she would have. Over 30 years Fire/EMS experience you must work in an area with not many accidents. I have seen multiple accidents were not only children but adults are located in the floor board covered by the air bag, books, coats, etc. You as all Fire/EMS are trained to rescue a person that you know is in a vehicle. If it is an abandoned wrecked or not wrecked vechile you look though the windows or open the door. I'm sure this trooper looked. The fact is NOBODY knows what happend to her. She could have had a heart attack.

  • newssaavy72 Apr 3, 2:15 p.m.

    I am in disbelief at this situation. How can anyone not even see that there was a body in the car? A sunfire is a small car. This was no van or SUV. Comon sense would have told you that you are to search for anything or anyone after such an event. I am sure that there was some kind of training that these officers receive of this sort with all of the duties that they perform highway wise! My first instinct would be to look in the car for id of who it would belong to and to run the plates and to find out what might have happened. I hope that this family sues for wrong ful death if indeed it determined that this lady was alive in those 3 days. Yes, to err is human, but she was not an inanimate object, but a human being and I feel for this family. So much negligence on behalf of the HP department to tell the towing company to not speak on the matter. What are they trying to hide?

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