A woman was found dead in the trunk of a Toyota Camry with no plates in Queens early Wednesday, and investigators believe she is a 26-year-old mother from Upstate New York who went missing in the five boroughs after a birthday party in November.
Authorities say they still have to confirm the identity of the woman found in the trunk on 134th Avenue through forensic tests, but believe the body is Destini Smothers. A senior NYPD official with direct knowledge of the case tells News 4 clothing on the body matched what Smothers was wearing when she was reported missing. Her ID was also on her, the official said.
The body, which was in a fetal position, was found in the trunk only as the vehicle was being towed. The senior NYPD official told News 4 the car had been abandoned with no plates and parked on 134th Avenue for "awhile" before sanitation tow trucks came to pick it up Wednesday. neighbors said that the car had been parked there for months, and say abandoned cars in the are are all too common.
The tow truck crew drove off with the vehicle, then noticed a problem with a tire and pulled over on Lefferts Boulevard to pop the trunk and look for a new one, said NYPD Chief Reuben Beltran. Police said the truck made it to South Ozone park when the body was found.
Smothers, a mother of two from Troy, traveled to Queens in early November for a funeral but went out two nights before that service to a local bowling alley to celebrate her 26th birthday, according to an NBC News report. No one saw her again after that.
NBC News reported Smothers had left Troy, which is just north of Albany, with her longtime boyfriend, who later told Smothers' family the two got into an argument while in Smothers' black 2011 Toyota Camry. At some point during that fight, the boyfriend said Smothers got out of the car and walked off, leaving her purse, wallet, keys and ID behind.
"He actually got in my car and took me to where he said she jumped out in Astoria. Took me and my family," said Tima Fowler, a cousin of Smothers'. "I don't understand how he did that. But he did it and we found the car, the car is found now, she's found."
Since that drive, Smothers' family says the boyfriend has gone missing. It wasn't clear if the Camry where the body was found Wednesday was the same one Smothers owned. The senior NYPD official tells News 4 the body in the trunk was fully clothed with no signs of trauma. The medical examiner will determine a cause of death.
Her two young children had been staying at Smothers' mother's home in the Bronx at the time she went missing. The family got concerned when Smothers didn't show up there to pick up her clothes for the funeral she planned to attend Nov. 5.
“She loves those children and would do anything for them,” aunt Shareen King told Dateline, which covered the case in late November. “She wouldn’t just leave them. And there’s no way in hell she’s not calling her mama. My sister is just devastated.”
Smothers' cousin Johann Daily said the whole family feels the same way: brokenhearted and searching for answers.
"She has two boys at home that were waiting for her. We ere so, so we knew that were going to find her, but I just didn't believe we would find her like this," Daily said. "Somebody is gonna have to pay."
Police sources confirmed to NBC New York that they are actively looking to find and speak with Smothers' boyfriend. No suspects have officially been named in the death, but her family had a message for whomever is responsible.
"What's done in the dark comes to light. You will be found," Fowler said.
No other details were immediately available on the case Wednesday. Chopper 4 showed a sprawling law enforcement presence at the scene.
The investigation, officials say, is ongoing.