(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
Authorities discovered the body of Autumn D. Vinson, 62, in a Pontiac Bonneville submerged in five to six feet of water east of the Red Star boat access area, the Cape Girardeau Police Department reported.
Darin Hickey, public information officer for the Cape Girardeau Police Department, said crime scene investigators were processing the vehicle to determine whether foul play was involved.
Hickey said the body was found in the back seat of the vehicle, but it was impossible to tell how it got there, because the submerged vehicle was full of water.
"There's no way to know where the body was located when it went into the water," he said.
An autopsy is scheduled for this afternoon to determine a cause of death, Hickey said.
At this point, authorities do not know when or how the vehicle ended up in the river or whether Vinson was alive when she went into the water, Hickey said.
"We're treating it as an unknown death at this point," he said.
Basically, that means the case will be treated as a homicide until investigators are sure it wasn't.
"Until we know, we treat everything as if it may be" a homicide, Hickey said.
A passer-by called police about 10:11 a.m. Friday to report seeing the antenna and roof of the vehicle in the water, Hickey said.
Early Friday afternoon, battalion chief Brad Dillow of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department said to work around the river's strong current, divers hoped to hook a chain to the fenders of the vehicle and pull it out. It took crews several hours Friday to remove the car from the river after a first attempt damaged the car's front fender. A tow truck was finally able to pull the car onto the boat ramp around 3:15 p.m.
Responding to questions from reporters Friday afternoon, Hickey said there was no indication the vehicle was connected to the death of 40-year-old Marsha Brown of Cape Girardeau, whose body was found Tuesday in a ditch near U.S. 51 in rural Makanda, Ill.
Brandon L. Banks, 28, of Cape Girardeau faces a first-degree murder charge in connection with Brown's death.