When a woman’s body was found locked in a Walmart bathroom, where it had been for three days, the public quickly lambasted the store, with some even blaming the big box chain for the death. Then, cops revealed what they found when they looked in the deceased woman’s car. After the discovery, should the store still carry any blame?
Katherine Caraway, a 29-year-old mother-of-one in Muskogee, Oklahoma, stunned the world when she was found dead in a Walmart bathroom just outside of Tulsa. Making the discovery even more horrific, the deceased woman’s body had been locked in the private family bathroom of the Sand Springs store for three days before she was found. Immediately, the public wanted answers as many pointed the finger at Walmart.
Although it was initially unclear how long the mother had been in the bathroom when her body was found, it was soon revealed that employees discovered Caraway three days after she had walked into the store and into the restroom where she died, according to News On 6.
CCTV footage showed the woman entering the store’s private and lockable bathroom on Friday at 6 pm. But, it did not capture her returning to the store the following Monday before her body was found at 3 pm. So, investigators believed she was inside the entire weekend. “We’re searching through the video and talking to as many people as we can to find out her story, where she’s from,” Sand Springs Police Capt. Todd Enzbrenner told Tulsa World shortly after the body was found.
As Sand Springs Police continued to investigate, they learned that staff had put an “Out of Order” sign on the family bathroom after becoming confused about why it was locked. The employees assumed the restroom wasn’t working since it had been locked for a number of days and they didn’t get a reply when they knocked. They had no idea Caraway, who was alone at the time, was inside, Daily Mail reported.
The out of order sign remained on the door over the weekend until a maintenance employee unlocked the bathroom on Monday morning, only to discover the dead woman’s body on the floor, according to Inside Edition. When the preliminary investigation didn’t turn up anything suspicious about the woman’s death, the court of public opinion quickly found fault with Walmart, decrying the fact that the bathroom wasn’t cleaned for three days and no one had looked inside to see if anyone needed help.
Kaycee Johnson, who remembered trying to use the family restroom the Sunday before Caraway was found, was heartbroken to learn why the bathroom was locked. “It was before they put up the out-of-order sign,” Johnson recalled. “She was in there for that long and they just passed it by,” she added. “By them just knocking on the door and not getting a reply, why did they not go get a key and open it? They could have helped her if she needed it.”
Captain Enzbrenner believed it was a big miscommunication, and although the discovery was unusual, it wasn’t necessarily surprising. “It’s not really that shocking. You find bodies everywhere,” he said. “We don’t suspect foul play, but we also don’t believe that it was natural causes,” he continued.
As the public voiced their disdain with Walmart, an autopsy was performed and the police searched Caraway’s car for clues. Months after her demise, Caraway’s death was ruled accidental as the autopsy results revealed that she died of an irregular heartbeat due to difluoroethane toxicity, which makes perfect sense, considering what was found in her car.
Difluoroethane is found in air dusters, like those used to clean computer keyboards, and multiple empty cans were discovered in Caraway’s car, The Seattle Times reported. Police believe she had been “huffing,” inhaling the chemicals from the cans to get high. Huffing deprives the body and brain of oxygen as the abuser fills their lungs with chemicals instead of air. The most serious side effect is Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.
By the time this occurs, it’s often too late since the user’s brain has been deprived of oxygen for so long. Even “First responders rarely save the lives of people whose heart has stopped because of inhalant use,” according to DrugRehab.com. So, while the young mother’s death is tragic, it was no one’s fault but her own, and there was little the staff at Walmart could have done about it. But, her death does raise other important issues beyond the detrimental effects of huffing.
Although Katherine Caraway was a Texas transplant to Muskogee and had no apparent connection to Sand Springs, according to Enzbrenner, one can only wonder how the woman wasn’t noticed to be missing by anyone for three days. It was reported that her family traveled from Texas to identify the body, but there is no word where Caraway’s son was while his mother laid dead on a Walmart bathroom floor.
In a world where everyone is constantly “connected,” no friends or family seemed to question why the young mother, who obviously had a drug abuse problem, seemingly disappeared without a trace for days as even her social media accounts went silent. That represents a much sadder reality in our society than whether or not Walmart is cleaning the bathrooms every day.