Crime - Sacto 911

Clues sought in death of woman found in American River

Authorities are still looking for clues in the murder of a 51-year-old Rancho Cordova woman found floating in the American River near the Sacramento State campus last week.

The woman was identified Wednesday as Mary Fitzsimmons, by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. Fitzsimmons suffered a “sharp force” trauma to her upper body, said Sgt. Tony Turnbull, a spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

The body was first spotted in the water between the H Street Bridge and the Guy West footbridge on Friday. Sacramento police began an investigation, which led detectives to a crime scene on the levee near Rogue River Drive in the jurisdiction of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Detectives believe that Fitzsimmons was killed within 24 hours of her body being recovered from the American River by firefighters in a boat.

The investigation was aided by how quickly detectives were able to connect the body with a crime scene in Rancho Cordova, Turnbull said. But other factors slow the progress of the investigation, Turnbull said.

He described the crime scene as an open area about 50 yards from the American River frequented by transients. He said it will take time to find witnesses and reconstruct the last hours of her life. He said Fitzsimmons frequented the area, but didn’t believe her to be a full-time transient.

“Homicide investigations take a long time. You have to work a case backwards,” said Turnbull. “Who saw her last? Obviously, when something happens in an open area” it takes a while to track and locate people.

The fact that the body was in water also will slow the investigation, he said.

Fitzsimmons has an extensive criminal record that includes convictions for theft and possession of methamphetamine, according to Sacramento Superior Court records. She has several adult children living in Redding, Shasta Lake and Salt Lake City, according to public records and their Facebook pages. Family members were not available for comment Wednesday.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews