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JP Coroner: Elderly Metairie woman died of natural causes

METAIRIE – The Jefferson Parish coroner has ruled that an elderly woman who was found dead in a Metairie senior living facility Tuesday died of natural causes.

Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich said at a press conference today that 84-year-old Pauline Ballon was not the victim of foul play, as initially thought.

“Today I can tell you, after our extensive collaboration with the sheriff’s office, myself and the team of pathologists have determined that Mrs. Ballon’s death, with its very unusual circumstances and physical findings, is going to be classified as natural,” he said.

An autopsy and lengthy discussions with Ballon’s personal doctors accounted for injuries that initially raised red flags for investigating officers and triggered the homicide investigation, Cvitanovich said.

“There were some physical findings that were suggestive of a possible strangulation,” he said. “In this case, we’re still trying to get our hands around exactly what happened.”

Ballon had small markings on both sides of her neck, she was bleeding from her right ear, there were small dots of blood in the whites of her eyes, and there was fluid in both of her lungs, Cvitanovich said.

All of those elements were determined to have been the result of existing conditions and were not the result of trauma.

“It’s quite unusual to get that combination of findings in a natural death,” Cvitanovich said.

The facility’s security camera system is one of the best investigators have ever encountered, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, and the extensive footage allowed police to determine that no one had been inside of Ballon’s room before her death.

“This is not a perfect science, but what we can rule out is that no one had access to her, and that’s what led us to where we are this morning,” Normand said.