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Sheriff: Palmgren died in "tragic accident"

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Two large binders contain the details of the Palmgren investigation. Two large binders contain the details of the Palmgren investigation.
A chart on the wall details the Palmgren crash. A chart on the wall details the Palmgren crash.
Sheriff Jim Hammond addresses the media. Sheriff Jim Hammond addresses the media.
CHATTANOOGA -

(WRCB) – Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond says Gail Palmgren died in a "tragic accident".

In a news conference Wednesday, the Sheriff says he is closing the investigation into the Signal Mountain mother of two.

Palmgren disappeared on April 30 following a fight with her husband, Matthew Palmgren. Her Jeep and remains were found at the bottom of a cliff on Signal Mountain earlier in December.

Detective Ric Whaley, lead detective on the case, says Palmgren left home around noon, she crashed around 12:36 and 12:38 pm on April 30th.

Investigators say Gail Palmgren was the only one involved in the crash, there no mechanical issues, and no tampering with vehicle. Gail wasn't wearing seatbelt.

The evidence shows that Palmgren lost control of her vehicle at only about 24 miles per hour. Investigators say she overcorrected and went over the side of the cliff.

Traffic investigators say because of the slow rate of speed, road evidence was gone within a few hours of the crash, leaving some questions that will never be answered.

"We may never know why", says Sheriff Hammond.

Hammond says the case is closed, Gail Palmgren's death an accident.

The Sheriff's Office has filed a 99 page report detailing the crash.

[Read the full crash report (11MB PDF)] 

 

Minute by minute updates of the news conference:

- Large diagrams documenting Gail Palmgren crash on wall. Law enforcement assembling.

- 2 large binders detailing Gail Palmgren case are on the table.

- We'll hear from Sheriff, lead detective, and crash investigator in today's press conference. Crash report and autopsy report both finalized.

- I'm no black box expert, but diagrams on wall appear to say Gail Palmgren was going less than 20 mph when she crashed

-Sheriff says this will be the final press conference on Gail Palmgren case. He's going over timeline of how we got here.

- Sheriff says several leads followed over 7 month period Gail Palmgren was missing. Her Jeep was in area "almost impossible to find".

- Sheriff: Based on medical evidence ... we are able to say with confidence this seems to be a tragic accident.

- Signal Mtn. PD Chief Veal addressing media. Thanks HCSO for taking lead because his department did not have the resources needed.

- Det. Ric Whaley to now provide details in case.

- Whaley: persons with possible information were interviewed and an air search was conducted early on that showed no evidence.

- Whaley: Review of the records show Gail Palmgren left home around noon, she crashed around 12:36 and 12:38 pm on April 30th.

- Whaley: Matthew Palmgren was at home when Gail Palmgren crashed.

- Traffic Investigator says this is one of the most intense cases he's worked. Lots of overtime hours logged.

- 99 page report available in records department, showing details of crash reconstruction.

- Gail Palmgren was only one involved in crash, no mechanical issues, no tampering with vehicle, Gail wasn't wearing seatbelt.

- Gail Palmgren ran off road to right, hit rock, then tumbled over bluff. She died from injuries in crash.

- Gail Palmgren was not on the phone at the time of the crash.

- Gail Palmgren at one point was traveling 24 mph at most. Black box shows 5.2 seconds of her being out of control.

- Detectives say device is good to have for evidence, but with no road evidence it's hard to place her on road, animate crash.

- Gail Palmgren overcorrected, that sent her off the side of Signal Mountain.

- Event data device captured 3 events, but HCSO only able to recover 2. Detectives think 3rd was the impact.

- The passenger side seatbelt shows there was not a passenger in Jeep.

- With no soft tissue patterns from remains it's hard to "put driver in the driver seat", can't say if seatbelt would have saved Gail Palmgren.

- Whaley says envelope was found near Jeep with Arlene Durham's name on it, had $80 in it. It was logged with personal items.

- Traffic investigator is sure Gail Palmgren was not wearing a seatbelt, she didn't remove it after crash, trying to escape vehicle.

 - Traffic investigator says he doesn't believe anyone could have survived crash.

- Impossible to recreate crash with video because HCSO doesn't have a "start to end". Too many questions about road evidence, or lack of.

- By 5 pm that day the road evidence was likely gone, because of the low speed. Even if they found Gail Palmgren in May, there'd still be questions.

- Traffic Investigator: "We don't know what caused it."

- Rock Gail Palmgren hit was moved 23 feet.

- Forensic center written report not finished, but ME says remains consistent with "high trauma death" and car crash.

- Sheriff's Office took Gail Palmgren's kids to scene to show kids "what happened to mommy".

- Sheriff: "We may never know why", but says case closed, case solved. Gail Palmgren's death an accident.

 

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