Woman Found Dead in Car Identified; Suspicious Odor Was Gasoline: Police

Maria Fernandes, 32, sometimes parked her car in public parking lots between jobs to get a few hours of sleep, investigators said

Police have identified the woman who was found dead inside her car in a New Jersey parking lot Monday, and they say the chemical odor from the vehicle that initially alarmed first responders turned out to be gasoline that had spilled from a container. 

The woman, 32-year-old Maria Fernandes of Newark, was found dead inside her 2001 Kia Sportage in a Wawa convenience store parking lot on Spring Street in Elizabeth at around 4 p.m. 

Police said Fernandes worked at several Dunkin Donuts stores in the area and it wasn't unusual for her to park in a public access parking lot in between jobs to get a few hours of sleep. She was scheduled to lend her car to a friend two hours after she parked her vehicle in the lot that afternoon, police said. 

Workers at the Wawa store became concerned when they saw Fernandes in her car and called 911. Responding EMTs were able to get into the vehicle but were immediately overpowered by some sort of chemical smell, police said.

Once they determined the woman was dead, the workers backed away and alerted firefighters and hazmat crews.

Hazmat officials later determined the smell was gasoline from a gas can that had apparently spilled in the back of the car. Investigators say Fernandes apparently traveled with the can because she had run out of gas in the past while commuting between jobs. 

Fernandes has family in Portugal, and they have been notified of her death, police said. 

An official cause of death is pending toxicology results, but an autopsy has determined that there's no reason to suspect foul play in Fernandes' death, police said. 

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