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Gruesome Discovery In Petaluma Donation Box

PETALUMA (CBS SF) -- The body of a woman was discovered early Wednesday dangling out of a large clothing donation box on a Petaluma street, authorities said.

Petaluma police said the body was reported at around 6:40 a.m. in a green clothing and shoes donation box located in a parking lot near the Steel Bear Deli on Old Redwood Highway near North McDowell Boulevard.

A delivery man saw feet dangling out of the box, came into to the deli and called 911 early Wednesday. When officers arrived they found an unresponsive woman trapped head first in the container, police said.

Officers attempted to free her while members of the fire department checked for signs of life but she was determined to be dead. Police said there was no evidence the incident was anything other than a tragic accident.

petaluma, body, homeless, donations
Donation bin in Petaluma where the woman's body was found. (CBS)

Petaluma Lt. Tim Lyons told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that the woman was either homeless and looking for a way to get out of the rain or someone who was trying to make a donation and became trapped by the box's heavy lid.

Petaluma, like much of the Bay Area, has been cold and wet recently. Residents of the area told KPIX 5 that there has been an uptick in homeless people for quite a while.

"Some are drug addicts and some are, you know... just had a bad way. They can't get it back, you know," said Petaluma resident Darin Hoy.

The woman's air supply was likely cut off as she was crushed around the neck, Lyons said.

"It looks like at some point, the lady tried to climb in there," Petaluma police Sgt. Paul Gilman told the newspaper. "She got pinched."

Police were actively investigating the woman's death and interviewing an acquaintance who came to the scene, who said she was a local resident.

Police said they have identified the woman, but they are waiting until her family is notified first to release her name. The woman's body is undergoing an autopsy at the Sonoma County Coroner's Office to determine an official cause of death.

Anyone with information about the woman's death was asked to call Petaluma police.

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