As friends and family of Ashley Westbrook Turton tend to the somber details of memorial service plans, firefighters, police, medical examiners, federal investigators and BMW representatives are comparing notes and theories about what might have caused the mysterious death of the Progress Energy lobbyist who had strong Raleigh ties.
Turton, a 37-year-old mother of three and wife of a White House aide, was found dead about 5 a.m. Monday inside her burned 2008 BMW X5 at her Washington row house.
The SUV was partially in the garage as firefighters spent 5 or 10 minutes trying to bring the blaze under control, according to Pete Piringer, the District of Columbia fire department spokesman. Firefighters did not immediately look for anyone inside the vehicle.
"The call came in as a garage fire," Piringer said Wednesday.
It was only after thick smoke dissipated, he said, that firefighters realized a person was in the vehicle.
Though homicide investigators were called to the scene, Piringer said a key theory is that Turton was trying to maneuver her SUV out of the garage and past a car in the driveway when she struck flammable materials.
An autopsy has been conducted, but results from toxicology tests had not been returned late Wednesday. A cause of death had not been reported.
Piringer said detectives had considered a mechanical malfunction and homicide as possibilities. "All these things have to be looked at and ruled out, but most of our focus is on this being an accidental death," Piringer said.
Turton was admired by friends for her ability to juggle career and family as part of a political power couple. She and her husband, Daniel A. Turton, a 43-year-old White House aide, had 4-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter.
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