Skip to main content

Doctor found dead, lodged in boyfriend's chimney, police say

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Woman's body found in chimney
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The doctor had been reported missing Thursday
  • The boyfriend had apparently left on a trip
  • It took authorities 5 hours to dismantle the chimney and remove her body
RELATED TOPICS
  • Bakersfield
  • Burglary

KBAK: Doctor asphyxiated in chimney

(CNN) -- The decomposed body of a California doctor was found lodged in her boyfriend's chimney, several days after she had apparently attempted to get inside his home, police said.

Internist Jacquelyn Kotarac, 49, had been reported missing on Thursday, Bakersfield, California, police said in a statement Tuesday. Her body was found lodged in the fireplace flue on Saturday.

Kotarac was last seen Wednesday night at about 10:15 p.m., "trying to force her way inside (the home) as she was involved in a dating relationship with the resident," police said. "The resident left the house undetected to avoid a confrontation and stayed the night elsewhere."

Authorities did not identify the boyfriend or say why Kotarac was attempting to get inside his home.

Kotarac did not arrive for work on Thursday, and her assistant and the boyfriend searched for her at his home. Her car and belongings were there, but there was no indication she had gotten inside, police said. The boyfriend and her medical staff reported her missing.

"Her purse was there, with her phone, all her money, all her credit cards, all that stuff," neighbor Terri Terrazas told CNN affiliate KBAK-TV.

Thursday night, the boyfriend stayed at the home before leaving for Europe, police told KBAK.

"Friday night, we could smell something," Terrazas told the station. And "someone down the street said they thought they heard someone yelling quietly for help." But the sound was dismissed as coming from kids playing in a nearby pool, KBAK reported.

Kotarac was found by a friend of the boyfriend's, who stopped by to feed his fish while he was away, police said.

"The house sitter detected a strong odor coming from the fireplace, and upon inspection located the deceased woman lodged in the flue approximately two feet above the top of the fireplace interior opening."

It took authorities five hours to dismantle the chimney and flue from the exterior of the home enough to remove Kotarac's body, authorities said.

There was no evidence of foul play, police said, and "all the evidence thus far indicates Kotarac accessed the roof via a ladder and on her own volition removed the chimney cap and slid down the flue feet first."

Kotarac's family told KBAK they are horrified to think she could have spent several days lodged in the flue. They said she graduated from medical school with honors, and KBAK reported that Kotarac was voted a favorite local doctor last year.

An autopsy was planned for Tuesday, police said, but did not immediately return a call from CNN on Wednesday.