The man whose body was found in the back of an SUV in which a Bakersfield family was traveling died of natural causes, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.
On Aug. 15, sheriff’s deputies found the body of Donald Eugene Cunningham, 83, from the Bakersfield area, in the SUV belonging to Darwin Keith Alaskari, 59, and his wife Sherrie Lynn Boggess, 50. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter was also inside the SUV, which deputies found parked in the wrong direction on a street in Cayucos.
Neither Alaskari nor Boggess were implicated in Cunningham’s death, but deputies arrested them on child endangerment charges.
The SLO County Coroner’s Unit found the cause of death was a heart attack and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. The coroner’s unit listed acute morphine toxicity as a contributing cause in Cunningham’s death.
Cunningham had morphine in his body, but it was not the underlying cause of his death, the sheriff’s office explained in a news release. Officials also determined Cunningham died in Kern County.
Alaskari and Boggess were transporting Cunningham’s body to be buried in the Big Sur area or possibly somewhere out of state, deputies said. It is not clear how long the body was in the back of the SUV.
Cunningham was a longtime acquaintance of the Bakersfield couple. The sheriff’s office described all three of the adults as transients from the Bakersfield area.
In addition to exposing their daughter to a dead body, Alaskari and Boggess allegedly placed the teen in close proximity to narcotics and paraphernalia.
Last month, Boggess pleaded no contest to a single count of wilful cruelty to a child and received a sentence of four years of supervised probation and mandatory parenting classes. The case against Alaskari is ongoing, and he remains in SLO County Jail with his bail set at $105,000.