An autopsy report doesn't state how soon death came for a 17-year-old boy whose body wasn't found for nearly four days after a car crash.
The report does say, however, that David Montoya had a blood alcohol content of .22 and cocaine in his system at the time of the one-car collision near Cave Creek and Pinnacle Peak roads on November 7. That gives some idea of why the crash happened, but the question of the time of death remains unanswered.
Was Montoya still alive when searchers -- including police and the boy's father -- went to the intersection to look for the boy's vehicle? Did the boy last for minutes, hours or even days before he expired? The report from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office doesn't say.
At our request, officials with the medical examiner's office asked the doctor who performed the autopsy, Jeffrey Johnston, to give an opinion on the matter. His response? "No comment."
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That seems somewhat suspicious. In our experience, news that absolves people is usually offered readily and happily by third parties. News that indicates blame or responsibility -- that's usually more guarded. So we're inclined to think the boy might not have died instantly, else Dr. Johnston would have probably said so.
True, that's reading a lot into a "no comment," and there was evidence in the report that Montoya had died much earlier than when he was found -- namely, that some decomposition had occurred.
Montoya's car -- his dad's car, actually -- was found flipped upside down under some brush. Montoya's neck was "hyperflexed and the chin was on the chest," Johnston's report says. That seems to indicate the boy's breathing would have been seriously impaired -- but Johnston's report doesn't speculate how long someone could last in that position.
Whether Montoya could have been saved with reasonably prompt medical attention -- only the county knows. And its not saying.