Miami, FL – The 56-year-old wife of a Miami police officer died after becoming trapped in the back of her husband’s patrol vehicle in the sweltering heat on Friday, according to police.
Investigators said they are treating the death of Clara Paulino as a horrific accident, the Miami Herald reported.
Clara Paulino’s husband, Miami Police Officer Aristides Paulino, was asleep inside their Miami Shores home on Aug. 21 after working a midnight shift, according to police.
The 58-year-old officer has served the Miami Police Department (MPD) for 25 years.
Detectives said they believe his wife was searching for something when she climbed into the back of his marked Ford Explorer, which was parked out in the couple’s driveway, according to the Miami Herald.
As she was digging around inside the SUV, the automatic-locking door somehow swung shut behind her, police said.
Officer Paulino’s patrol SUV is equipped with a cage that separates the front seat area from the back seat and has bars across the back seat windows, Miami Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Matthew Reyes told WTVJ.
Clara Paulino was trapped inside the vehicle for hours in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, the Miami Herald reported.
Officer Paulino and one of the couple’s sons found her body at approximately 5:30 p.m., a law enforcement source told the paper.
Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) detectives said they located Clara Paulino’s fingerprints all over the inside of the patrol vehicle, the Miami Herald reported.
“Clearly, she was panicked and trying to get out,” the law enforcement source said.
The MDPD is handling the ongoing investigation into the circumstances of Clara Paulino’s death, the Miami Herald reported.
The medical examiner has not ruled on a manner or cause of death.
A law enforcement source said that Clara Paulino’s history of medical issues may have also been contributing factors, the Miami Herald reported.
“Horrible, horrible, horrible, imagine someone, that happening to someone,” the couple’s neighbor, Daphne Steward, told WTVJ. “She loved her family and her children and I believe it’s just an unfortunate situation.”
Officer Paulino and Clara Paulino were married for 38 years, according to the Miami Herald.