Woman left in Tahoe Donner identified | SierraSun.com

Woman left in Tahoe Donner identified

David Bunker
Sierra Sun
Photo courtesy of Truckee policeCynthia D. Erler
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Police are puzzled by the death of a 54-year-old transient woman from Reno who was found wrapped in a blanket and rope and crammed into a duffel back left in a Truckee parking lot Monday afternoon.

An autopsy on the victim has provided little new information on how she died. Officials at the Placer County morgue identified her by her fingerprints as Cynthia D. Erler, a 54-year-old woman who lived on the streets of Reno and in low-budget hotels in the city for the last 15 years.

“There are no obvious signs of trauma to the body,” said Truckee police Lt. Dan Johnston. “There are no obvious signs of death.”

Erler had a criminal history, but had no ties to the Truckee area, Johnston said. She also had record of documented health problems, police said.

Toxicology reports, which could take weeks to finalize, will determine if drugs or poison was involved in her death.

Truckee police are in Reno questioning her friends.

“Our plans are to attempt to locate where she might have died, how she might have died, and who was involved with … placing her body into a fairly small bag and bringing her up into this area,” said Johnston.

Police said the woman’s body was not treated well after she died. Although small, approximately 5-feet-4-inches tall and just over 100 pounds, the woman’s body had to be manipulated to fit it inside the fairly small duffel bag.

“The bag is smaller than she would be standing up and she was placed in that bag,” said Johnston.

Truckee officials, who initially believed that the death was a murder, are now uncertain of the cause of death after the autopsy reports came out.

“We know that she died. We don’t have any indications that it was as a result of a homicide at this time,” said Johnston. “It very easily could have been. It is not natural to put somebody in a bag like that.”

No eyewitnesses have come forward, but the police are busy following up on about 250 tips that have come in.

The Northwoods Clubhouse, where the body was discovered by four golfers returning from a Reno golf game, appears to be a “random location” for the body to be dumped, police said.

If the woman died of natural causes and then was placed in the duffel bag and left in the parking lot, the people that did that to the body could face misdemeanor charges, said Nevada County District Attorney Michael Ferguson.

Two sections of the health and safety code say someone that “deposits or disposes” of a body that is not cremated, without a license, can be charged with a misdemeanor, said Ferguson.

Ferguson also noted that mutilating or disinterring a corpse can also be carry a misdemeanor charge.