Wake County

Teen found dead after Raleigh crash died of effects of cold air and water, autopsy finds

Mother: 'My daughter was in the woods found 500 feet from that accident 3 days later'

Kristina Harms, mother of Lauren Jenkins,17, thinks the State Highway Patrol should have spent more time looking for her daughter the night of her wreck. She wants to push for a new state law that would require law enforcement agencies to continue
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Kristina Harms, mother of Lauren Jenkins,17, thinks the State Highway Patrol should have spent more time looking for her daughter the night of her wreck. She wants to push for a new state law that would require law enforcement agencies to continue

Lauren Jenkins, a 17-year-old found in woods a day and a half after a car she was driving crashed in March, died of hypothermia and the effect of cold water on her body’s support systems, an autopsy has found.

She also had alcohol and some methamphetamine in her system, the autopsy said, and signs of frostbite.

The autopsy report, released Monday by the State Medical Examiner, lists the official cause of death as “hypothermia with terminal water immersion,” with “acute ethanol ... toxicity” as a contributing condition. The autopsy found a “trace amount” of methamphetamine in her blood, and the alcohol and meth were listed as contributing factors in her dying from the cold.

The crash happened the night of March 17 at Leesville and Oneal roads, a short way outside the Raleigh city limits

Officials were told that Jenkins had been drinking at a hotel party before the crash.

Jenkins’ body was found during the day on March 19 in a creek in woods between the accident scene and her home. The State Highway Patrol had been unable to find her after the crash, and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office had been searching the area.

The autopsy noted that the lowest recorded temperature between the time of the crash and when Jenkins was found had been 23 degrees, and there had been precipitation on the 17th and 18th.

The medical examiner’s office said Jenkins was in a sleeveless top and yoga pants when she was discovered face up in the creek, and there was a flannel shirt nearby.

Her clothing was water-soaked and had dirt and plant debris on it, the report said.

A toxicology report about Jenkins’ blood listed an ethanol concentration of 110 milligrams of ethanol per deciliter of blood (110 ml/dL), or 0.11.

That is above the legal limit for adults to drive of 0.08. Drivers under 21 are not legally permitted to have any alcohol in their blood when behind the wheel.

The report describes scrapes and bruises Jenkins had on her face, torso, arms and legs, but said none of those injuries would have killed her.

Allison Garrell and Kristina Harms, mother of Lauren and Nick Jenkins, talk about the garden Nick made for Lauren and how they want to remember them.

Ron Gallagher: 919-829-4572, @RPGKT

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