Authorities say woman set car on fire and her death was suicide

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Frank Schultz
October 3, 2014

JANESVILLE—Janesville police say evidence shows Karen K. Brookins set a fire in the passenger compartment of her car Sept. 23, leading to her death.

The tentative conclusion, pending toxicology tests, is that Brookins died from inhaling smoke from the fire, Rock County Chief Deputy Coroner Lou Smit said.

Police and Smit agreed that Brookins' death was a suicide.

Smit and police held off identifying Brookins until Friday because they could not get a positive identification of the badly burned body.

Dental X-rays—the most common way to identify a body in such situations—were never found, but Brookins was identified through other X-rays, Smit said.

Brookins, of 309 Centre St., Footville, had parked the car in secluded spot near a cornfield near Arbor Ridge Way on Janesville's west side before setting the fire. Her body was found in the back seat of the car.

Brookins worked as a pharmacy technician in Janesville.

Police did not find a note, but they did hear from family and friends who told them Brookins suffered from depression and had tried to kill herself two days before she died, Deputy Chief Dan Davis of the police department said.

Police could not determine how she set the fire, Davis said.

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