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Some of the most prominent medical professionals in the field of pathology are weighing in about the investigation related to the death of Texas mom Christina Lee Powell, who was found dead in her car more than two weeks after she was seen rushing out of her San Antonio home.
Powell, a 39-year-old mom of two boys, was discovered dead on the evening of July 23, in the front passenger seat of her Nissan SUV. Investigators have said so far that they believe her car had been parked there at least a week.
The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office told Fox News Digital on Monday that the cause and manner of Powell’s death remain “pending” as the office awaits the results of further tests. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Police Department could not confirm an Inside Edition report that claims Powell died from an “apparent suicide” after driving straight from her home on July 5 to the parking lot where she was discovered nearly three weeks later.
Speaking to Fox News Digital on Monday, longtime forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht said the additional studies likely consist of a toxicology examination, and microscopic testing to check for any disorders.
“They’re waiting for toxicology, that’s most important – most important,” said Wecht, who has been involved in some of the country’s most high-profile death investigations, including those involving President John F. Kennedy and JonBenét Ramsey. “They’ll also look at tissues microscopically – make sure there’s no evidence of inflammation of the heart or lungs or something like that.”
Dr. Michael Baden, a Fox News contributor and former New York City chief medical examiner, said that, simply put, the need for additional testing means the cause and manner were not immediately obvious.
“Mostly, it may mean there are no external marks on the body. If there were a bullet wound, strangulation, for example – trauma – or if in the autopsy they found cancer or heart disease as a cause of death, that would have been released right away,” said Baden, who has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies in his five-plus decades as a forensic pathologist.
“And if the autopsy itself doesn’t reveal the cause of death, then the most likely tests that will be significant would be toxicology, with the idea being… what of the history? If she’s depressed, for example, they might be thinking of, barbiturates, drugs, lethal drugs.”
Powell vanished without a trace on the morning of July 5, after she was last seen hurrying out the front door of the San Antonio home she shared with her mother and her oldest son. On the morning of her disappearance, she told her mom she was running late for work.
She was then captured on doorbell camera footage leaving the house around 10:35 a.m. but was never seen again. Powell left behind her cell phone — which had been placed on the bathroom counter — medication and possibly also her Apple Watch when she left.
She drove off in her Nissan SUV, but never made it the seven miles, or 15 minutes, to her office.
Claudia Mobley reported her daughter missing the next day. She later told Fox News Digital that her daughter had left home once before, but returned in under a week and Mobley never reported the incident to police.
Then, the San Antonio Police Department received a call around 6:45 p.m. on July 23, for a report of “an injured sick person” at the Huebner Oaks Center in San Antonio.
Officers arrived and spoke to a security guard who told them that he was driving through the lot and spotted the 2020 Nissan Rogue, which was later determined to belong to Powell, “that had been parked in the same location for about a week,” the San Antonio Police Department said.
He “reported a foul odor coming from the vehicle,” and looked inside to find the body in the front, passenger seat, police said.
The windows of the SUV were closed, a law enforcement source told Fox News Digital.
“It had been days,” the source added.
There were no obvious signs of trauma to Powell’s body and her purse, which contained identifying information, was also inside. It was not immediately clear if any medication or writings were recovered at the scene.
Wecht noted to Fox News Digital that even when pathologists know what caused Powell’s death, they will still need to take it a step further to determine whether it was intentional, accidental, natural or inconclusive.
He added that the levels of any chemicals found in her system could better explain whether the death was accidental. Hypothetically speaking, he said, evidence of a high volume of medication or alcohol in Powell’s system would indicate a more specific intention.
The mall complex is located approximately four miles away – a 10-minute drive – from her Red Hill Place home. Temperatures in San Antonio reached the 90s, if not higher, during the approximate time Powell’s vehicle was believed to have been parked in the lot.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.