Como woman’s death remains a mystery

No sign of blunt force trauma; final autopsy results could take weeks

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

July 22, 2007 - The death of the 23-year-old woman found on Bethel Road Friday morning is not at this point thought to be a homicide, investigators said Saturday morning following a preliminary autopsy.

"There were no signs of any kind of trauma at all. They found nothing that would indicate she died from trauma, blunt force or otherwise," Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum said midmorning Saturday of Crystal Vellenga's death.

The preliminary autopsy, conducted by a medical examiner at Southwest Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas, ruled out death by striking, hitting or other blunt force trauma, as Vellenga had no severe injuries.

That was consistent with investigators assessment of the area where she was located — they found no indicators of a struggle or any foul play either.

Toxicology and other medical tests were not ready yet, and the complete autopsy report is not expected to be ready for at least six weeks, and could take as long as three months or more.

Crystal Vellenga was found around 10 a.m. Friday alongside Bethel Road, a location relatively close to her residence on County Road 2332, where she was last seen between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Vellenga's family reported her missing around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. A massive search effort by both land and air by local officers was immediately launched, but called off just before midnight Thursday.

Just as authorities were readying Friday for a release to the press and media asking for the public's help in locating Vellenga, a man on a bicycle reported finding what appeared to be a dead person off the road. The woman was later identified as Vellenga.

Based on the condition of the body, medical experts indicated, the woman had likely been dead since Wednesday.

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