Christina Nance had been missing for 12 days when a police officer spotted a pair of shoes next to a prisoner transport van parked at the public safety complex in Huntsville, Alabama.

Inside, the 29-year-old black woman lay dead.

What happened to Nance and why it took police nearly two weeks to find his body on October 7 in the busy city parking lot remains a mystery – even after officials released surveillance footage showing someone on Friday. one who they said was Nance entering the vehicle and moving.

Preliminary results from this week’s autopsy showed no signs of trauma or foul play, officials said; the cause of death is under investigation. A separate police investigation into Nance’s death is underway and a toxicology report is expected in the coming weeks. In the meantime, his family has hired one of the country’s foremost civil rights lawyers, Ben Crump, to represent them pending answers in the case.

“We will find out the truth about what happened to Christina Nance,” Crump said in a statement. “We lift up Christina’s family in prayer as she mourns this devastating loss.”

A police press conference on Friday offered a partial view of how Nance may have gotten into the vehicle, but provided no clue as to why she had been there for so long.

Huntsville Deputy Police Chief DeWayne McCarver released video clips showing a person wandering in the parking lot outside the police headquarters on September 25, then appearing to enter the blue and white van. Images for the next three days showed movement inside the vehicle, McCarver said. The last move was recorded on September 28, he said, noting that investigators combed hundreds of hours of video to find these key segments.

Nance’s family members reviewed the video before police presented it publicly. They told the local WAFF news station that they were not happy with the footage because it was of such poor quality.

“The video was not clear enough to indicate that it was our sister Christina Nance,” said Nance’s sister Whitney Nance. “It was just very heartbreaking knowing that we didn’t get the clarification we really needed, wanted.”

McCarver admitted that Nance should never have been able to get in the van in the first place. Ministry policy requires that police vehicles remain locked.

“It is a question of responsibility on our part,” said the deputy chief. “It shouldn’t have happened. And now we have to look at this, and we have to make sure that we put things in place so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Once Nance was inside, there would have been no way for her to get out. The van, which had been out of service since March, was previously used to transport prisoners, so there were no handles inside.

But the windows were easy to get out and were open when she was found, McCarver said. Although the video shows officers moving “continuously” through the area, it never appeared to try to signal anyone to ask for help, the deputy chief said.

“Cars are passing, people are walking near the van,” McCarver said. “We just wish she had shouted at someone or something because unfortunately there were what we see as potential opportunities for it not to be a tragedy. And unfortunately, no one could realize that she was in that van.

“We just have no idea what his state of mind was,” he added.

The public safety complex sits between a tangle of highway overpasses on the north side of Huntsville and includes a jail, magistrate’s office and firearms license office, as well as the department’s main offices. The parking lot where she was found is reserved for the police. “There are police officers coming in and out of this lot 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” McCarver said.

Nance was known to the department. Officials said members of the crisis response team, which helps treat people with mental illness, provided her with unspecified resources in the past.

“We have been working with the Nance family for over a year now with the needs of the family through our CIT program and our community resource officers,” Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray told WAFF. “So we are very close to this family and so we cry with them; we share the loss of Mrs. Nance at this time.

Nance’s family members told WAFF that Nance was last seen on September 27 and reported missing on October 2. They described her as a gentle, calm person who loved to sing and dance. Her sister Latausha Nance recalled driving with her at the end of September.

“I just looked at her and she was just smiling,” Latausha Nance told WHNT, the Huntsville-based CBS affiliate. “And I said, ‘Christina, why are you smiling like that?’ and she just said, ‘Oh nothing, it’s nothing.’ This is the last memory I have of my sister.

Nance’s death caught the attention of Alabama officials. Alabama House minority leader Anthony Daniels requested an independent autopsy on Friday.

“I hope that many of the questions raised by the community and the family of this young woman will be answered,” he said in a statement. “We need to fully understand what happened to Ms. Nance in order to prevent such tragedies from happening again in the future.”

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