TRUCKEE - Police are puzzled by the death of a 54-year-old transient woman from Reno who was found wrapped in a blanket and rope and crammed into a duffel back left in a parking lot here Monday afternoon.
An autopsy provided little new information on how she died. Officials at the Placer County morgue used fingerprints to identify Cynthia Dee Erler, who also used a number of other last names during the past 15 years she apparently lived on the streets and in low-budget hotels of Reno, including Farr, Farrar, Faustion and Keck.
"There are no obvious signs of trauma to the body," said Truckee police Lt. Dan Johnston. "There are no obvious signs of death."
Erler had a criminal history, but had no ties to the Truckee area, Johnston said.
Toxicology reports, which could take weeks to finalize, will determine if drugs or poison was involved in her death. Erler had a medical history that police would not divulge.
Truckee police are in Reno questioning her friends.
"Our plans are to attempt to locate where she might have died, how she might have died, and who was involved with ... placing her body into a fairly small bag and bringing her up into this area," Johnston said.
Police said Erler's body was not treated well after she died. Approximately 5-feet-4-inches tall and just over 100 pounds, Erler's body had to be manipulated to fit it inside the fairly small duffel bag.
"The bag is smaller than she would be standing up and she was placed in that bag," Johnston said.
Truckee officials, who initially believed the death was a murder, are now uncertain of the cause of death after the autopsy reports.
"We don't have any indications that it was as a result of a homicide at this time," said Johnston. "It very easily could have been. It is not natural to put somebody in a bag like that."
No eyewitnesses have come forward, but police are following about 250 tips.
The Northwoods Clubhouse, where Erler's body was discovered by four golfers returning from a Reno golf game, appears to be a "random location" for the body to be dumped, police said.
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