How Did Debra Bridgewood Die?

911 operators in Colorado Springs received a frantic call on July 6, 1984, informing them of a human body that was still on fire. Once the police reached the scene, they found Debra Bridgewood still alive, but she soon succumbed to her injuries at a local hospital. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide Hunter: Hot on The Trail: A Burning Mystery’ chronicles the horrific incident and portrays how a single word uttered by the victim led to a startling discovery. Let’s delve into the details of the case and find out more, shall we?

Debra Bridgewood’s Cause of Death

Debra Bridgewood, who often went by the name Laura Smalls, resided with her family in Cherry Point, North Caroline. She was just 20 years old at the time of her murder and was a student at the University of Colorado. Although Debra was pretty close to both her mother and her sister, the show noted that she lived with dissociative identity disorder and was being treated for the same. Nevertheless, people who knew her described her as a kindhearted person who loved making friends.

When the police came across Debra on July 6, 1984, they realized that her body had been doused in gasoline before being set on fire. The gasoline can was also located beside the burn victim, and officials wasted no time in shifting Debra to a nearby hospital. When at the hospital, Debra managed to give detectives her name and even whispered the words “Cherry Point.” However, before she could say anything else, the injuries proved too grave, and the 20-year-old passed away.

Initially, the police began looking for a perpetrator named “Cherry Point” but soon realized it was meant to be a place. Besides, after further research on Cherry Point, officers discovered that a family from that area had reported Laura Smalls missing. Surprisingly, Laura’s description matched Debra’s, and the police had the family come down to identify the body. After Debra’s family arrived in Colorado Springs and identified the body, they revealed that she had been battling dissociative identity disorder for a long time. In fact, her condition was so acute that Debra was often spotted to be arguing with other voices in her head. Nevertheless, the police still could not rule out the possibility of homicide and decided to find out where the gasoline was purchased from.

Interestingly, detectives found a shop close to the spot where the victim’s body was located, and once the police made their inquiries, the shop owner mentioned that a girl had walked in to purchase that same can of gasoline. However, to everyone’s surprise, the owner’s description of the customer indicated that Debra bought the fuel herself. On the other hand, the owner also mentioned that Debra seemed to be in a trance and was talking to herself during the purchase. Thus, putting two and two together, detectives realized that since Debra lived with dissociative identity disorder, one of the personalities in her head had forced her physical body to burn herself. As a result, Debra’s death was marked as self-immolation, and the police were able to end the case successfully.

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