(La Porte County, IN) - A woman found dead in a La Porte County Police vehicle she allegedly stole may have drowned in the water-filled ditch she drove into while trying to allude officers.
That’s among the new pieces of information obtained in the death of Mellissa Collins, 21, of Lafayette. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson noted that water was found in her lungs and esophagus during an autopsy.
“At this point, it’s looking like a drowning,” she said.
Swanson explained that the woman was submerged in the police vehicle, which landed on its top in the water-filled ditch early on February 1st.
She said a ruling on the official cause of death will not be made until the results of a toxicology test come in, so as to determine if there were any drugs or alcohol in the victim’s system.
The chain of events leading up to the death began late on January 31st when a Westville Police officer tried stopping Collins for undisclosed reasons in a vehicle on U.S. 421, according to LaPorte County Police. The attempted traffic stop triggered a high-speed pursuit to U.S. 30 before heading westbound into Porter County.
The suspect, before reaching Valparaiso, began traveling back to LaPorte County on U.S. 30 and then headed southbound on U.S. 421 at Wanatah.
A decision was then made to terminate the pursuit in the interest of safety.
Several minutes later, LaPorte County Police said information was received about a crash along U.S 421 near County Road 1400 South. After the crash, the investigation shows Collins was handcuffed and secured in the front passenger seat of the police vehicle assigned to Deputy David Grimberg. Grimberg walked away from his patrol vehicle to investigate the crash when Collins began manipulating her handcuffs.
Eventually, Indiana State Police reported that Collins managed to unbuckle her seat belt and drive off in the police vehicle. While in pursuit, officers lost sight of the stolen police vehicle, but while searching the area, discovered it submerged in a water-filled ditch in the area of 2100 South and 875 West between Wanatah and LaCrosse.
ISP noted that evidence at the scene indicated the police vehicle crashed after crossing a set of railroad tracks at an extremely high rate of speed.