Examiner unable to determine cause of woman’s death
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was unable to determine the cause of death of a 38-year-old woman whose body was found in October near Chicken Bridge in Chatham County in October.
The autopsy report on the death of Daphne Marie Forster, 38, of Siler City, said the condition of Forster’s body and the circumstances of how it was found is “highly suspect, and the manner of death is best classified as a homicide.”
Someone driving on Chicken Bridge Road saw Forster’s body burning on the side of the road near the bridge early on Oct. 10. Chicken Bridge, which crosses the Haw River, is in an isolated area about 10 miles southwest of Chapel Hill.
Two weeks later, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office charged Brian Keith Whitfield, 24, and Caleb Shaddie Wyland, 25, of 3400 Carl Durham Road, Chapel Hill, with first degree murder.
The autopsy report said that Forster’s body was badly charred and her left forearm was detached from the body.
“Fragments of partially charred duct tape were present on the right extremities and over the mouth,” the report stated. “Soot was not present the lower airways.”
“Given the autopsy and investigative findings, it is our opinion that the cause of death in this case is underdetermined,” the autopsy report states. “With the extensive thermal injuries, there are no remaining identifiable injuries at the time of autopsy.”
The lack of soot in the airways and the low level of carbon monoxide in the blood suggest that Forster was not alive when her body was burned, the report states.
“Asphyxiation due to smothering or strangulation cannot be ruled out based on autopsy findings alone,” the report states.