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Posted at 6:16 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Lobbyist drunk at time of death: Autopsy

By Paul Duggan
Paul Duggan

The death of a lobbyist in a Capitol Hill garage fire last month has been ruled accidental by the D.C. medical examiner's office, which said Friday that 37-year-old Ashley Turton died from "thermal burns" and inhaling "products of combustion."

An autospy also found that "acute alcohol intoxication" contributed to her death, the office said.

Turton, an energy company lobbyist, was found shortly after 5 a.m. on Jan. 10 in her sport-utility vehicle, which was damaged by fire in the garage of her home in the 800 block of A Street SE, authorities said. She lived there with her husband, Daniel A. Turton, 43, the White House's deputy director of legislative affairs for the House of Representatives.

The medical examiner's office declined to elaborate on its conclusion that Turton was drunk at the time of the predawn fire. The incident remains under investigation, said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer.

Authorities said they are continuing to look into Turton's activities immediately before her death and studying the contents and layout of the garage and the mechanics of her 2008 BMW X-5 as they try to establish the sequence of events.

Investigators think Turton was backing out of the garage when the BMW rolled forward, striking a work bench, Piringer said.

The "low-speed" collision apparently ignited the fire, Piringer said. WTOP radio has reported that experts are exploring the possibility that antifreeze spilled from the SUV's damaged radiator and was ignited by heat from an exposed headlight bulb. There were other flammable susbstances in the garage.

Authorities have said they think Turton was striken by a medical problem or lost consciousness for some other reason as she backed up the inclined driveway. They have theorized that after she blacked out, the BMW rolled forward into the garage.

Turton's body showed no obvious signs of trauma after the fire, authorities said. They said homicide detectives found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in her death.

Marc S. Micozzi, a pathologist on the faculty of Georgetown University School of Medicine who is not involved in the Turton case, said in an interview that "acute" alcohol intoxication occurs when a person consumes a large amount of alcohol "very quickly, in a short time."

"Thermal" burns result from heat rather than chemicals or toxic fumes, Micozzi said.

The incident occurred as Turton was leaving home earlier than usual for work, anticipating a busy day in her downtown office, colleagues said. That day, her employer, Progress Energy, and another North Carolina utilities giant, Duke Energy, announced Duke's intention to buy Progress for $13 billion in stock.

Turton and her husband had worked as congressional staffers before one became a lobbyist and the other a White House aide. They were a Washington power couple well known in Democratic circles.

By Paul Duggan  | February 11, 2011; 6:16 PM ET
Categories:  Fires & Fire Safety, Paul Duggan, The District, Updates  
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Comments

AAI at 5 in the morning. What gives?

Posted by: msdooby1 | February 11, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

There's more here than meets the eye. Somebody else is involved.

Posted by: ronjaboy | February 11, 2011 8:39 PM | Report abuse

May she rest in peace and God comfort her husband and children. There is clearly more to the story. I thought she was going to work early that day. How could she be drunk at that hour and driving? I pray the authorities conduct a thorough investigation.

Posted by: lilahkelly | February 11, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

It was originally report she was leaving for work in the a.m. There are also reports she was in Old Town Alexandria the night before celebrating. Did she ever make it home? Or was she just arriving home? Someone needs to interview the husband. Was he not aware she was intoxicated? This whole story does not add up. Very odd that a working mother of three children has this happen. But then again maybe she was an alcoholic. Just another point if she was on the roads driving drunk thank goodness she did not kill someone else!

Posted by: haha4 | February 11, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Initial reports said she was on her way to the airport to catch a flight. So that was incorrect?

Posted by: redlinerider | February 11, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

maybe she was celebrating becoming very rich? her company was just bought. either way, story sounds fishy

Posted by: weblurker1 | February 11, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

That why you should never listen to "preliminary" or "initial" reports, the vast majority of the time they are inaccurate--just allow investigations and events to play out. But she was apparently celebrating closing a big deal with her firm in Old Towne. The client maybe convinced her to drink a little more than normal. But it's not uncommon for people to close deals in the 2am - 3am time-range in this city. She could have just been driving home after this late night shift and had an accident. I don't think she was going to work after pulling an all nighter.

Posted by: madstamina | February 11, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

That why you should never listen to "preliminary" or "initial" reports, the vast majority of the time they are inaccurate--just allow investigations and events to play out. But she was apparently celebrating closing a big deal with her firm in Old Towne. The client maybe convinced her to drink a little more than normal. But it's not uncommon for people to close deals in the 2am - 3am time-range in this city. She could have just been driving home after this late night shift and had an accident. I don't think she was going to work after pulling an all nighter.

Posted by: madstamina | February 11, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Everyone can see this does not make sense. If I were the owner of a BMW X5, this would concern me that a very small bump would make my car an inferno that would kill me. Someone should have come up with a better lie than this.

Posted by: aundra66 | February 12, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

"acute" alcohol intoxication occurs when a person consumes a large amount of alcohol "very quickly, in a short time."

_______________________

The short amount of time is minutes in some cases--esp. when you are being plied with drinks or when someone is pouring alcohol down your throat.

Posted by: mil1 | February 12, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmmm.

Posted by: sak61 | February 12, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Lol, anyone who reads this story and believes the convoluted theory of the DC Cops/Medical Examiner is drunker than they claimed the victime was. This woman was "offed" plain and simple. Issue is who and why, but anyone who thinks this was an accident, result of a "medical emergency", or anything short of murder should just kill themselves as they are clearly too stupid to live...The theory of the case is utterly ridiculous and preposterous...odds of it happening as they theorize are right up there with the episode of Seinfeld where Frank Costanza slips and falls on a piece of corkscrew pasta and it gets lodged in his butt lol..."a one in a million shot doc!"...

Posted by: opticlguy | February 14, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

who is buying this malarkey? somebody knocked her out, poured alcohol down her throat, and staged the accident with her unconscious and unable to resist.

Posted by: andreas_drexler | February 16, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

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