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WARREN, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Police said a metro Detroit man discovered his 31-year-old passenger dead as they drove from Arizona to Michigan, and he just kept driving with her body in the front passenger seat.

The woman, whose name has not been released, fell asleep. When the driver tapped her as they passed through Oklahoma or Texas sometime Monday, she was cold to the touch and wouldn't wake up, Warren Police Detective Sgt. Stephen Mills said.

The 62-year-old from Clinton Township was interviewed by police Tuesday. He told them they were in a desolate area at the time and he thought she was dead.

"He then does an Internet search via his phone," Mills said. "He says he finds on the Internet that he has 48 hours to take her to a medical examiner or to a morgue."

That is not the case, and he should have immediately called for help, police said.

Eager to get back to Michigan after spending the winter in Arizona, the man kept driving with the dead woman in the 2004 Ford Econoline van.

The two were friends and decided to drive back together with the man's 92-year-old mother. They left Sunday afternoon from the Sun City area, northwest of Phoenix.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday by the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office, but no cause or manner of death has yet been determined, and toxicology reports are pending, Mills said. There were no obvious signs of foul play, he said.

Police are still tracking down her relatives.

The woman's last known address was Roseville, but she had gone for treatment in Arizona prior to checking herself out to make the trip back, police said.

A health care professional at the facility that had been treating the woman called her cell phone and the man answered. He explained the situation and was told to stop and get a hold of police, Mills said.

"He says, 'I'm not stopping,' " Mills recalled. "I'll get a hold of them when I get to Michigan."

A missing person report was filed in Arizona by the company, and authorities in Michigan became involved, contacted him and told him to pull over, which he eventually did, stopping at his son's house in Warren.

The Macomb County Sheriff's Office contacted Warren Police, and they became involved. The woman's body was picked up by the Medical Examiner's Office, Mills said.

The man came in for a voluntary interview Tuesday, cooperated with investigators and has been released, authorities said.

"As soon as you determine that (a person is) unresponsive, you should pull over and call 911," Mills said. "Because there's always a possibility that you foresee them as dead but they may not be."

It's unclear if the man will face charges. That will be a decision for the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office once the investigation is complete.

The man's 92-year-old mother, also from Clinton Township and a snowbird, will be interviewed later.

"It's just a rare occurrence," Mills said. "I've been doing this 20 years. ... It's the first time I've had something such as this."

Contact Elisha Anderson: eanderson@freepress.com

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