A former real estate agent drove with the partially mummified body of a homeless woman in the passenger seat of her car for between three and 10 months, according to a report.
When the officers arrived, they noticed a foul smell coming from inside the vehicle, a 1997 Mercury Marquis, and then saw a leg poking out from a pile of clothes used to conceal the body.
They smashed a window and found the body, along with a box of baking soda which had been used to reduce the odor.
"This person was somewhat used to the smell," Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Ed Everett said.
The 57-year-old former real estate agent said she had been too afraid to call the police after she found the body of the woman, the Register reported.
Women were friends
Police told the newspaper that the two women had become friends after meeting at Mile Square Regional Park and reached an agreement that the homeless woman, known only as Signe, could sleep in the former agent's car in December.
The driver was in financial difficulties and had been staying at a friend's house, police said. Officers declined to identify her.
The body of the woman, who is believed to have been between 50 and 60 when she died, had been reduced to about 30 pounds when it was found, with the lack of air and weather conditions at the time helping to preserve it.
The Register said officials believed the woman had been dead for three to 10 months, based on the state of the body. The cause of death was unknown, but an autopsy revealed no signs of foul play, according to the newspaper.
Further tests were being carried out in an attempt to identify the dead woman.
Officers were investigating whether the driver had committed any health code violations, the Register reported, but she had not been arrested or cited.