(Reuters) - A man who completed a cross country drive to Michigan from Arizona with a dead woman in his van will not face charges for failing to report her death immediately, police in suburban Detroit said on Friday.
Ray Tomlinson, 62, told police he had determined that the woman, a friend who had signed herself out of an Arizona mental health facility, had died during the drive but feared he would be arrested and that a delay in his trip home could hurt his 92-year-old mother, who was also in the van, authorities said.
"There is no foul play, there is no malice or intent, there is just poor decision-making," said Jere Green, police commissioner in Warren, Michigan, a Detroit suburb.
Tomlinson was contacted several times by authorities during the trip and his intent was to deliver the body to a medical examiner so his actions, however mistaken, did not support a charge of failing to notify authorities, police said.
Tomlinson and the woman, 31, had struck up a relationship a year ago and she asked him for a ride back to Michigan when he and his mother were preparing to return home this month after spending the winter in Arizona, Green said.
They set out with Tomlinson's mother strapped in a wheelchair in the back of the van, which lacked air conditioning, and the woman sitting in the front passenger seat wearing sunglasses and her seat belt, Green said.
Authorities learned she was dead when the facility called her cell phone to remind her about following up with treatment and Tomlinson, who was then in Oklahoma, answered the phone and said she had died.
He was told to stop and call 911, but refused then and several more times as he passed through Illinois and Michigan, apparently under the mistaken belief after an Internet search that he had 48 hours to report her death, Green said.
Tomlinson eventually arrived at his son's house in Warren where police found him on Tuesday with his mother and the woman's body, Green said.
A medical examiner has determined there was no foul play in the woman's death and her autopsy is pending toxicology reports though police suspect a drug overdose, Green said.
Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis