Local News

Monday, Aug 30 2010 04:40 PM

Body of local doctor found in chimney flue

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    Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac, photographed in 2007.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A sign posted at the office of Dr. Jacquelyn A. Kotarac.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The house at 4309 La Mirada Drive in Bakersfield where a woman's body was found in the chimney Saturday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Terri Terrazas says there was a strong odor in their neighborhood on the 4300 block of La Mirada Drive in Bakersfield before the body of a woman was found dead in the chimney at 4309 La Mirada Drive on Saturday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Emergency personnel had to break down a chimney at 4309 La Mirada Drive in Bakersfield to recover the body of a woman that had died inside the chimney.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Emergency personnel had to break down a chimney at 4309 La Mirada Drive in Bakersfield to recover the body of a woman that had died inside the chimney.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The badly decomposed body of a woman found in a chimney flue has been identified as a local doctor, authorities said Monday.

Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac had been missing since last week, a day after she went to the house of a man whom she had been dating, Bakersfield police Sgt. Mary DeGeare said. Kotarac went to the man’s house in the 4300 block of La Mirada Drive Wednesday evening and was reported missing by her office staff Thursday morning, DeGeare said.

DeGeare said she wasn’t sure what the status of the relationship was — whether they had been broken up or not — when Kotarac went to the house. The man, however, didn’t want to see her and left the home unnoticed to avoid a confrontation as she tried to force her way inside. DeGeare did not release the man’s name, but the resident of that house is listed as William Moodie and neighbors confirmed that was the name of the man living there.

On Saturday, a woman at the house noticed a bad odor, DeGeare said. The woman, who was checking on the fish tank, investigated and saw fluids in the fireplace. She got a flashlight and looked up the flue and realized there was a body stuck there, DeGeare said.

Bakersfield firefighters spent five hours dismantling the chimney and flue from the outside of the home from Saturday to early Sunday to get to the body, DeGeare said. Detectives initially investigated the death as suspicious, but police said Monday that all the evidence indicates Kotarac voluntarily went to the roof, removed the chimney cap and slid down the flue feet first.

A sign posted inside Kotarac’s San Dimas Street office Monday said the office was closed for the day. Callers were transferred to the office’s answering service.

Neighbors of the house on La Mirada Drive were shocked.

“We never expected she was in the chimney,” said Victor Munoz, who lives next door to the house where the body was removed.

Munoz said a purse and other belongings had been found in his neighbor’s back yard earlier in the week. Munoz said Moodie had dated a woman that Munoz knew as “Jackie.”

He said he never heard the two fighting or noticed anything else indicating there had been a bad breakup.

Munoz said neighbors of Moodie had been on the lookout for the woman, thinking she might may have been abducted because her belongings were found outdoors and she was missing.

Neighbor Terri Terrazas said a woman who was a doctor had lived at Moodie’s house at one time. She had heard they had broken up but remained friends.

Terrazas said her husband noticed a terrible smell coming from the house Friday evening, but he thought it was just trash left out.

She said she was saddened by what had happened.

“I don’t care who your are — a doctor, lawyer, garbageman — I think you can snap over any kind of heartache,” Terrazas said.

Kotarac practiced internal medicine and her license was renewed and current, according to the Medical Board of California website. She graduated from UCLA School of Medicine in 1991.

John Croson, a patient of Kotarac’s for at least 10 years, said he felt sick when he read about her death. He said Kotarac was, in his experience, the rare doctor who took the time to really listen to her patients.

“She was just a really nice lady and I had 100 percent confidence with everything she did,” Croson said.

Another patient, John M. Ulman II, described Kotarac as a “true professional.” He said her death struck him as a close, personal loss.

“I’m just totally deflated because she was such a sweet person and she cared about her patients,” Ulman said.

Kotarac had some unpaid taxes at the time of her death.

Federal tax liens totaling more than $194,000 were filed in December and January, public notices filed with the Kern County Recorder’s office show, and state tax collectors in April recorded a lien against Kotarac for more than $31,000.

Kotarac did save her house from foreclosure this spring.

An $800,000 loan against the home, on Raphael Avenue in the northeast Tuscany tract, defaulted in July 2009. Last November, the custom home was slated to sell at public auction on City Hall steps with more than $839,000 owed against it. But by March this year, the default notice was canceled, indicating Kotarac was up to date with payments.

In addition to tax problems, Kotarac also had a legal issue to deal with. She had been scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 27 on a misdemeanor charge of defrauding an innkeeper of $400 or less, according to the Kern County Superior Court website.

— Californian staff writer Gretchen Wenner contributed to this report.

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