CENTENNIAL, Colo. – A woman who lived with a 6-year-old girl missing since November died of an apparent heart attack, police said Friday, days before a grand jury is to start investigating the disappearance.
Shely Lowe, 32, had a history of heart trouble and was on several medications, police chief Daniel Oates said. She died at a hospital early Friday morning after her live-in boyfriend, Aaron Thompson, called 911 and said Lowe was having trouble breathing.
"Obviously, her death is under investigation, but all indications are that this was a natural death," the police chief said. The coroner's office said an autopsy was scheduled.
On Nov. 14, Thompson reported that his daughter, Aarone, was missing, telling police that she became upset and left the house when he refused to let her have a cookie.
Three days later, police halted their search and said they believed Aarone may have been dead as long as 18 months. They said they received a tip but have not released any specifics.
Lowe, Thompson and their defenders have criticized police as focusing on the couple instead of searching for Aarone, whose 7th birthday was on Nov. 30.
Police in turn have been openly critical of Lowe and Thompson, calling Aaron Thompson's account a fabrication and the couple's behavior "morally reprehensible."
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said Lowe's death would slow the investigation of Aarone's disappearance, but she said the grand jury's focus would not change. The panel starts work next week, but the exact day isn't known.
Sam Riddle, a family friend, blamed the investigation for Lowe's death, saying she cried from severe stress at times. "I am firmly convinced the Aurora police and the state of Colorado hounded Shely Lowe to death," Riddle said.
Chambers said authorities didn't want to put stress on Lowe but she acknowledged the investigation was likely stressful anyway.
Grand jurors could decide to delay any questioning of Lowe's children who lived with her and Thompson, Chambers said. After Aarone was reported missing, seven other children were removed from the home.