Missing Gaston woman died from drug overdose — (Gaston Gazette)

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Gaston Gazette

By Staff reports

Updated Apr 25, 2013 at 7:07 PM

A Gaston County woman missing for seven weeks before her body was found in her wrecked car down a rugged ravine in McDowell County died from a combined drug overdose, an autopsy by the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office has determined.

The autopsy report also noted that a journal found in her vehicle contained a suicide note, according to a Charlotte Observer report.

Elizabeth Estelle Stronger, a 27-year-old single mother, went missing after leaving her job as a Walmart cashier in Belmont on Oct. 14. A person investigating a possible illegal dump site found her wrecked car Dec. 3 about 100 feet down an embankment on a rural road off U.S. 221 south of Marion.

Stronger died from a combination of bupropion, the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, and the antidepressant sertraline, according to the autopsy report released Thursday. Bupropion is often used as an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid.

Stronger’s body was found in the front seat, according to Highway Patrol reports. The registration tag and vehicle identification number matched Stronger’s car.

Family and friends had been searching the area between Gaston County and McDowell County for Stronger after police reported that was the last place from where her cell phone emitted a signal.

There were no signs of traumatic injury or significant natural disease, and Stonger had a past history of depression, according to the autopsy.

The level of dextromethorphan and bupropion metabolite could have been fatal. Sertraline was also elevated and would have contributed to the drug toxicity, the autopsy said.