Homeless woman's death ruled accidental drowning, complicated by hypothermia

The Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore Feb. 5 ruled the death of a woman whose body was found in flooding water nearly a homeless camp in Laurel accidental drowning, complicated by hypothermia.

On Jan. 31 around 11:25 a.m., Anne Arundel County police and fire personnel retrieved the body of Anifa Kiwanuka, 26, from rising waters of the Patuxent River near a homeless camp off Route 198 and Racetrack Road.

The Patuxent River that runs through Laurel had risen due to overnight heavy rains, closing roads and prompting evacuation of areas north of Main Street. Police said Kiwanuka's body was found near a wooded spot in a low-lying area near Route 198 and Racetrack Road.

The discovery came as Laurel Police were going door to door Jan. 31 to warn residents and business owners about likely flooding from a release of water at the T. Howard Duckett Dam by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The commission also released water from Brighton Dam in Brookeville.

Temperatures near Laurel dipped as low as 14 degrees Jan. 27, and low temperatures were near or below freezing through Jan. 31, according to Weather Source.

Kiwanuka used services at the Grassroots Day Resource Center on U.S. 1, center manager Melinda Becker said.

Becker called the woman "very beautiful and sweet — just really lost," and said she was receiving addiction counseling.

"She was so tiny, and she looked very, very young," said Becker, adding that the woman appeared to be in her early 20s.

Becker said she had been scheduled to pick up the woman at 8 a.m. Jan. 31 at a shopping center near the homeless camp, which is near the Laurel Park racetrack — to be assessed for in-patient treatment.

"She never showed up," Becker said.

Alison Knezevich and Luke Lavoie contributed to this story.


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