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UPDATE: Palm Springs woman’s death investigated as homicide

UPDATE:

Michelle Nanette Walsh, the Palm Springs woman found dead in the back of an SUV in South Dakota on New Year’s Day has been ruled as a homicide investigation, according to autopsy results.

“Preliminary autopsy results indicate blunt trauma injury to her head and hemorrhage anterior neck musculature,” said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley on Monday. “This confirms this is a homicide and will continue to be treated as such.”

Authorities arrested her son, Tosten Walsh Lommen, 30, of Santa Cruz after he lead officers on a high-speed pursuit before he crashed into a ditch.

Michelle Walsh’s body was found when officials searched the car.

———————————————————- ORIGINAL:

Palm Springs Police confirm they’ve searched the home of a woman found dead in the back of her Honda on New Year’s Day.

The woman has now been identified as Michelle Nanette Walsh, 58, of Icon Way in Palm Springs. Her body was found wrapped in a blanket in the backseat of the car following a chase in South Dakota.

Officials say the driver was her son, Tosten Walsh Lommen, 30, of Santa Cruz.

As we’ve reported, Lommen allegedly led deputies on high-speed pursuit on New Year’s Day on Interstate 90 near Spearfish, South Dakota, deputies said. Lommen reached speeds of 118 mph and slowed down to 100 mph but did not pull over, according to court records.

The South Dakota Attorney General’s office says Lommen drove erratically onto oncoming traffic at one point. Deputies eventually stopped Lommen by spiking his tires twice, and his car, a Honda CRV, ended up in a ditch. Deputies said Lommen attempted to run from the scene but was caught.

Walsh’s body was found when officials searched the car. Her credit cards were also found in the vehicle. Authorities also found several prescription bottles and a growler that smelled of alcohol. Lommen had a blood alcohol level of 0.142 percent.

Prior to his arrest, Lommen had been staying Palm Springs, possibly with a family member, authorities said.

Palm Springs Police Sgt. William Hutchinson tells KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 that their investigators are “looking into” the possibility that Walsh was killed in Palm Springs. That has not yet been determined. Results from a Wednesday autopsy are still pending, officials say.

Evidence found when officials conducted the search warrant on Icon Way in the Escena Palm Springs community is “still being sifted through,” Hutchinson tells KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2. At this point, police are still calling the case a death investigation.

“We have responded to that address in the past,” Hutchinson said. He also confirmed that Lommen was familiar to the department. “We have had contact with him in the past.”

According to our affiliate in South Dakota, KOTA, Lommen has been in trouble for drunken driving before in California, and a woman filed a protection order against him in November 2015.

Investigators from multiple agencies, including the Palm Springs Police, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General of South Dakota, are working on the case.

“South Dakota law enforcement is continuing to work with California investigators and prosecutors on this ongoing death investigation,” said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley in a statement. “This arrest is a great example of the coordinated efforts of state and local law enforcement and the difficult work they face each day to protect us.”

Lommen remains in custody in South Dakota. A hearing on the case is scheduled for January 17.

This is a case KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 continues to track. Stay with us for updates.

I-Team Investigator Zak Dahlheimer will have full reports tonight starting live at 5:00 on KESQ News Channel 3.

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