Rodney Puckett

Rodney Puckett speaks with defense attorney Stefanie Jones-Campbell during a hearing July 12 in Pinal County Superior Court.

ELOY — The manner in which Linda Puckett died remains undetermined based on the findings of a recently released autopsy report.

Puckett’s nude body was discovered in a car going through the drive-thru lane of an Eloy fast food restaurant on May 13.

PinalCentral obtained a copy of the report from the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The ME determined Puckett died due to cardiovascular disease and right ventricular cardiomyopathy, but investigators remained indecisive on the manner in which she died. Right ventricular cardiomyopathy increases the risk of an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) and sudden death.

She was 74 at the time of her death.

Her ex-husband, Rodney Puckett, 70, remains in the Pinal County jail charged with abandonment or concealment of a dead body after he was caught in the Carl’s Jr. drive-thru lane intoxicated with her body in the front seat.

He told Eloy Police the couple was traveling from Oklahoma to California and she died during an overnight stay at a Hampton Inn in El Paso, Texas.

The El Paso Police Department is not investigating the case as murder based on the autopsy findings.

In Linda Puckett’s autopsy report, the medical examiner writes, “She may have been deceased in a hotel room in El Paso, Texas, as early as May 12 at 1600 hours (4 p.m.), although her husband told police he last saw her alive at 2300 hours (11 p.m.) on May 12, at which time she took Xanax and opiates and went to sleep. At 0245 hours (2:45 a.m.) on May 13, her husband removed her unresponsive body from the hotel on a luggage cart, placed her onto the floorboard of their vehicle, and then continued driving through Arizona on the way to California.”

There was no evidence that Linda Puckett had taken Xanax before her death, according to toxicological reports, despite her ex-husband telling police she took the drug hours before dying. Only a safe level of opiates was found in her bloodstream, according to the autopsy report.

In the autopsy report it was noted that Linda Puckett had attempted suicide in February or March 2019 by ingesting “a bunch of pills” and she was admitted to a hospital for the intentional overdose.

The autopsy report states that Linda Puckett had a 10-year history of opiate abuse and several suicide attempts over many years.

The “troubling matters” included in the autopsy report are the numerous bruises and lacerations her body suffered.

The medical examiner wrote, “She sustained multiple blunt force trauma, including two scalp contusions and a deep muscular contusion in the left chest wall. Some of the trauma might have been sustained during the transport of the body. There is no autopsy evidence of strangulation. A toxicology test is positive for a therapeutic level of oxycodone, which is not believed to be contributory to her death.”

The medical examiner stated that the trauma evident on her body was “relatively mild.” He added, “the possibility of blunt force head trauma or mechanical asphyxia as being the contributory cause of death cannot be completely excluded. The manner of death is undetermined.”

Trauma noted in the report included two scalp contusions, a deep chest wall muscle contusion to the left upper chest, contusions on both knees, a contusion on her right elbow, several cuts and at least a dozen abrasions.

There were no signs of sexual activity or abuse, according to the report.

Rodney Puckett, of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, remains in the Pinal County Adult Detention Center pending the posting of $100,000 bond, with the charge against him of abandonment or concealment of a dead body. It is a Class 5 felony, with a possible prison sentence of up to 2.5 years. For purpose of comparison, other Class 5 felonies include theft of property over $2,000, personal possession of marijuana over 2 pounds, possession of marijuana for sale less than 2 pounds, unlawful use of means of transportation (driver).

0
0
0
0
0

Jim Headley is a reporter covering breaking news, crime and justice around Pinal County. He can be reached at jheadley@pinalcentral.com.

Newsletters