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Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Exhumation Denied for Mom Suspicious of In-Law

(CN) - A Florida woman who suspects her son-in-law of murdering her daughter should not be allowed to exhume the body, the Delaware Court of Chancery recommended.

Laura Bowdoin died in June 2008, according to court records. She was married to George Bowdoin and they had one daughter.

At the time of her death, Laura was estranged from George and had filed for divorce. She was "developing a relationship with another man and looking forward to pursuing a new life," according to a 26-page report written by Master in Chancery Abigail LeGrow.

George found Laura dead in their home, and the cause of death was not apparent. No suicide note was found.

The autopsy showed that Laura died of Zolpidem toxicity. Zolpidem is marketed under the name Ambien, among other names.

The medical examiner could not determine whether the overdose was intentional or accidental. Laura's body showed no external signs of trauma, court records show.

However, Laura's mother, Mary Rinnier, suspected that George was involved in Laura's death.

She thought George was "jealous and angry about the divorce," according to LeGrow. Rinnier also said that George was the beneficiary of Laura's $1.2 million life insurance policy.

In addition, Rinnier was suspicious because Laura did not have a prescription for Ambien, but George did.

In 2011, Rinnier filed a petition to have Laura's corpse removed from Gracelawn Memorial Park in New Castle, Del., for re-examination.

She presented testimony from New Jersey medical examiner Dr. William Manion, who said that, even 81 months after burial, he would like to examine Laura's body to determine whether Laura took Ambien regularly or whether she died of a single acute overdose.

Chronic ingestion, Manion said, could indicate that she was ingesting the drug in her food and drink without her knowledge.

Manion also stated that he wanted to test Laura for damage to her hyoid bone, which is located in the neck, and thyroid cartilage to see if she had been strangled.

George's expert, Dr. William Anderson, countered that women are more susceptible to Ambien overdoses than men, according to LeGrow's report.

Anderson also said that "it is highly unlikely that any further information would be elicited by further examination of the body," the report states.

LeGrow agreed, ruling that Rinnier had not proven that Laura's body should be disinterred.

"In view of the respect typically afforded to a decedent's remains and their resting place, this court should not disturb those remains unless it is reasonably certain that doing so is likely to be a fruitful exercise," she wrote.

LeGrow said she sympathizes with Rinnier's grief and understands her wanting to know how her daughter died, but "personal sympathies cannot be the determining factor in a petition to disinter bodily remains."

"Although Ms. Rinnier's suspicions regarding the circumstances and timing of her daughter's death are understandable, she has presented no evidence - other than motive - to cast suspicion on Mr. Bowdoin," LeGrow wrote.

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