An 84-year-old woman who was believed to have been strangled inside her Metairie apartment instead died of natural causes, the Jefferson Parish coroner said Thursday.
That update was an about face from an autopsy a day earlier that indicated Pauline Ballon died from foul play.
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The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday issued a news release that said Ballon’s death initially appeared to be natural after a security guard found her body in her room at Metairie Manor IV, a senior living facility, about 8 p.m. Tuesday. The coroner's office, however, told detective an autopsy led investigators to believe Ballon was strangled.
But Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich said during a Thursday afternoon press conference that the death was no longer classified a homicide after a closer look at the autopsy results.
There were some physical findings that suggested she was strangled, Cvitanovich said, including some small markings on the side of Ballon’s neck and bleeding from her right ear.
The bleeding from the ear turned out not to be traumatic, Cvitanovich said, and other markings turned out to be hemorrhages. “Mrs. Ballon’s death, with its very unusual circumstances and physical findings, is going to be classified as natural.”
Cvitanovich admitted the investigation was “unusual” because so many physical signs pointed to strangulation. “In this case, we’re still trying to get our hands around exactly what happened. … It’s quite unusual to get that combination of findings in a natural death.”
"This is not a perfect science," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand added.
Normand said JPSO investigators found no signs of forced entry or a struggle inside Ballon's apartment, and there was no evidence to indicate anyone was with her in her apartment or that there was any struggle.
“The video system within that facility is second to none,” Normand said. He added that the building has “great security protocols” and that the window of Ballon’s second-floor apartment had not been opened anytime recently.
“A lot of what was going on in her personal medical history leads us to believe this is just one of those weird happenstances that gets us to the point where we are the present time,” Normand said. “This (an autopsy) is not a perfect science, but what we can rule out is no one had access to her.”
A statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which operates the building where Ballon lived, said church leaders “hope that this announcement brings peace to our Metairie Manor residents and their families, who have understandably been concerned and suffered some anxiety over the events of the last 24 hours.”
Normand acknowledged the death had created “some unrest in the community” but said he remained “confident at this point this was not a homicide.”