Coroner: California doctor suffocated while trying to squeeze down chimney into home
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – A doctor whose decomposing body was found in a narrow chimney suffocated after she tried to get into the home of her boyfriend, authorities said Wednesday.
The body of Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac was found Saturday — three days after she slid feet first down the chimney of the Bakersfield home, police said.
"The pressure being placed on the chest wouldn't allow her lungs to expand and she suffocated," Kern County sheriff-coroner spokesman Ray Pruitt said after an autopsy.
The coroner's office also ruled the death was accidental. Foul play was not suspected.
Police said Kotarac, a 49-year-old internist, wanted to confront the man with whom she had an "on-again, off-again" relationship.
Her corpse was discovered when a house-sitter noticed an odor coming from the fireplace. People in the home had noticed nothing until then, police said.
Kotarac was reported missing Thursday when she failed to show up for work, Bakersfield police Sgt. Mary DeGeare said.
The night before, she tried to get into the house with a shovel then climbed a ladder to the roof, removed the chimney cap and slid down. police said.
Meanwhile, the man she sought left unnoticed to avoid a confrontation and slept elsewhere that night, authorities said.
Firefighters spent five hours tearing up the chimney to extract the body that was wedged about two feet above the top of the interior fireplace opening.