Pearson case awaiting tests

Published 12:28 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Autopsy findings for a former Vicksburg woman found dead Monday morning will remain open until all tests at the Mississippi Crime Lab are completed, a process Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey said this morning might take six weeks.

“Unless they find something that just sticks out at them, it’s pending,” Huskey said.

The coroner pronounced 21-year-old Bethan Shirley Smollen Pearson dead at 7:11 a.m. and ordered the examination at the Jackson facility.

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He said he saw no signs of trauma. Autopsy results normally are available quickly if the cause of death is injury or the result of a medical event such as a heart attack, stroke or aneuryism. Toxicology tests for poisons or narcotics take longer.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Department report said Pearson had been found dead nearly an hour earlier in a bed at a 3700 Gowall Road home where she was visiting.

Sheriff Martin Pace said a resident of the home, Lance Burton, 22, who lives with his parents, tried to take Pearson’s cell phone from her purse after Warren County investigator Stacy Rollison secured her property. Burton was arrested at his home and charged with tampering with physical evidence and obstruction of justice, Pace said.

He remained in the Warren County Jail today without bond because he had been free on a $2,500 bond after being charged along with three others in a theft in the 4800 block of Oak Ridge Road.

Pearson, a former Millsaps College and Mississippi School of the Arts student, is survived by her husband, Blake Pearson, and her father, Joseph William Smollen V of Vicksburg.

Fisher Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.