Local News

Tuesday, Aug 31 2010 11:28 AM

Coroner: Bakersfield doctor suffocated in chimney in accidental death

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    Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac, photographed in 2007.

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BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

A Bakersfield doctor whose decomposing body was found Saturday in the chimney of her estranged boyfriend’s house died accidentally from being unable to breathe, the coroner’s staff reported Tuesday.

Other new developments in the death of Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac — who on the night of Wednesday, Aug. 25, went down the chimney to try to get into the house — include that she had an airplane ticket to go to Amsterdam on Friday with the boyfriend, and she arranged earlier on Wednesday night to have a service drive her home from Cafe Med where she had been drinking, police Sgt. Mary DeGeare confirmed.

The chimney was too narrow for a person to get all the way down, police said.

The boyfriend, identified by neighbors and property records as 58-year-old William H. Moodie, the owner of a petroleum engineering company, not only reported Kotarac missing Thursday but also slept in his house Thursday night as Kotarac was stuck, apparently dead in his chimney, DeGeare said. He was never considered a suspect in the case, the sergeant said.

Moodie, who left for the trip Friday, did not return a telephone call Tuesday.

The incident began Wednesday at about 10:15 p.m. — some two hours after Kotarac was driven to her home in the Tuscany neighborhood near Lake Ming — when she drove herself to Moodie’s home in the 4300 block of La Mirada, a few blocks east of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel.

Moodie didn’t want to see her and slipped out the back door when she arrived, police said.

Kotarac apparently used a shovel to try to break into the back door, police said. Moodie spent the night elsewhere, police said.

The internal medicine doctor, a 1991 graduate of UCLA Medical School, did not show up Thursday at the San Dimas Street medical office where she worked, police said.

One of her assistants contacted Moodie on Thursday, and both of them searched his house. That’s when the shovel was found as well as her purse and her car, police said.

Moodie and the assistant reported her missing, DeGeare said.

Moodie returned to his home Thursday to prepare for his trip and he spent the night there, DeGeare said.

Another assistant to Kotarac drove her car to Los Angeles that day to update her passport for the trip, the sergeant confirmed.

Police searched the home Friday evening, but also did not find her body or smell any bad odors, DeGeare said.

Following the missing person report, the doctor’s family consulted a psychic who couldn’t feel the doctor’s presence, according to Wayne Wallace, a private investigator. He said he was consulted by the family Saturday to look into Kotarac’s disappearance.

Wallace said he gathered information Saturday but he deferred to police Saturday night after a woman checking on Moodie’s fish tank discovered a foul odor and saw fluids in the fireplace.

Police then discovered a body lodged in the chimney and flue. Police said Kotarac used a ladder to get to the chimney and she removed the cap and slid down the flue feet first.
Bakersfield firefighters dismantled the chimney Saturday night and Sunday morning, the day Kotarac would have turned 50 years old.

Two sisters, one of whom is a nurse, and a friend consulted with Wallace on Saturday, the private investigator said.

Sometime after Kotarac returned home from Cafe Med, where her family said she was a regular visitor, she stopped at a Chevron station and bought cat food, Wallace said.

It is unknown if Kotarac was drunk Wednesday and that part of an autopsy typically isn’t available for weeks.

Wallace said he learned Kotarac sometimes showed up late for work, but every patient he talked to described her as a very good doctor.

She had a pending misdemeanor case in Kern County Superior Court for allegedly not paying a cab driver. A hearing that had been scheduled for Friday was delayed to Oct. 1.

Public records show Kotarac had some financial problems, such as owing back taxes. Wallace said Moodie paid for Kotarac’s airplane ticket.

The medical office where Kotarac worked was closed Monday, but it reportedly reopened Tuesday.

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