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Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Dead Woman's Car Ticketed Three Times
By James Monteleone
Journal Staff Writer
University of New Mexico parking attendants ticketed a vehicle three times last week without noticing a dead woman in the driver's seat, whose husband had reported her missing two weeks earlier.
The body of Rochelle Cremona-Simmons, 47, was found by police Thursday inside a rental vehicle parked in UNM's A Lot, along Central Avenue south of Johnson Field. Police believe the woman committed suicide by overdose.
A visitor from Virginia, Cremona-Simmons was reported missing by her husband Nov. 4, Albuquerque Police Sgt. Trish Hoffman said. Police sent notice to law enforcement officials around the state to help locate the missing woman's rented silver Buick Enclave.
But that does not include UNM parking attendants. They do not have access to such alerts.
They ticketed the SUV for parking without a UNM parking permit last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The attendants placed tickets on the vehicle's windshield without seeing the body of Cremona-Simmons in the reclined driver's seat, Hoffman said.
Because of scheduled rotations for parking staff, a different attendant likely wrote each of the tickets placed on the vehicle, UNM spokesman Benson Hendrix said.
The windows of the vehicle were dark and dirty, and seeing inside was difficult, Hoffman said. At a glance, it appeared Cremona-Simmons was sleeping, she said.
"From far away you wouldn't be able to tell anyone was in there. Actually, because the seat was reclined, you couldn't see her anyway unless you were right up on the vehicle," she said.
When UNM police discovered the missing vehicle, they found the body inside.
The investigation was turned over to Albuquerque police.
Police don't know how long Cremona-Simmons' vehicle was parked in the spot.
UNM parking attendants have no access to law enforcement databases when writing tickets, so they had no way of knowing police were looking for the car, Hendrix said. Attendants can only access information for vehicle owners who registered a parking permit through UNM.
Although parking officials patrol UNM lots throughout the day, illegally parked cars can be ticketed only once a day. A car can be towed after 15 days, but the illegal parking is not reported to police. One vehicle has been towed so far this year.
UNM Parking and Transportation officials said in a prepared statement their staff couldn't have done anything to change the outcome, and they expressed sympathy to Cremona-Simmons' family.
The department doesn't plan to change any of its policies.