IMPERIAL — A woman found dead in her Imperial home after a fire was reported there in January was the victim of a homicide and died from “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to a death certificate on file at the Imperial County Public Health Department.
The cause of death has not been made public by agencies involved in the investigation.
The probe into the Jan. 17 death of Yunique Marie Puckett Dorame is being headed by the City of Imperial Police Department. The city has not provided further information since a written statement issued at a press conference two days after the incident.
“We cannot comment on the cause of death, nor the condition of the remains due to the ongoing investigation,” it stated.
City public information officer Alexis Chalupnik, named as the city contact on the statement, did not immediately respond to a Sept. 21 voicemail seeking an update.
The Coroner Division of the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office has no comment on the case, an official who asked not to be identified said during a brief telephone interview on Sept. 22. The coroner investigates deaths and oversees autopsies.
To obtain further information about Mrs. Dorame’s death, a Desert Review reporter contacted county Public Health by telephone on Sept. 20. A department official confirmed a death certificate was on file for Mrs. Dorame and allowed a reporter to review it at department headquarters in El Centro. The review was done under the official’s supervision and the reporter was not provided with a copy of it nor allowed to photograph it.
According to the death certificate, Mrs. Puckett, 36, was fatally shot in her home at 312 Chisholm Trail in Imperial. It states the hour of the injuries as “unk,” meaning unknown, but lists the time of death as 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 17.
The “immediate” cause of death is listed as “multiple gunshot wounds” and was determined by an autopsy, the certificated states. It adds, “Decedent suffered from multiple gunshot wounds while at her residence.”
The death certificate includes no information on how many times Mrs. Dorame was shot, where on her body she sustained wounds or what type of firearm was used. It also does not describe the gunshot wounds or mention any other injuries to the body. That information would typically be included in the autopsy results, which have not been made public.
The certificate also states she was married to Phillip Orozco Dorame and that for the past 17 years her occupation was “homemaker.” It identifies her husband as the “informant” of the death and that it was reported to authorities on Jan. 17. It states Mr. Dorame resided in El Centro at the time.
According to the City of Imperial’s Jan. 19 statement, the incident began when the Imperial County Fire Department received a call early on the morning of Jan. 17 about a structure fire at 312 Chisholm Trail. The call was made by a neighbor.
Mrs. Dorame was found deceased in the master bedroom of the home in the Sunset Ranch subdivision on the city’s northeast side and was the only person found in the house. While the statement reported Mrs. Dorame was the victim of a homicide, the cause of death was withheld.
“The Imperial County Sherriff’s Office-Coroner Division conducted the autopsy. A preliminary inspection of the victim revealed the cause of death,” the statement read.
The statement did not include details about the fire, how it is thought to have started, how it was extinguished, what officials entered the dwelling and how or what evidence was found inside the home. It also did not state whether the blaze had any effect on Mrs. Dorame’s body.
The statement did not identify any of Mrs. Dorame’s family members, or discuss any contact authorities had with them. However, it is standard policy for public-safety organizations not to release the name of a deceased person until their family has been notified of the death, and the Jan. 19 statement by Imperial did identify Mrs. Puckett as the decedent.
The blaze “was suspicious in nature,” which led to a criminal investigation, including the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to the statement.
“It was evident that additional investigative steps needed to be taken,” the statement reported.
Imperial has not explained why the federal agency, typically known as ATF, was quickly called to join the probe. Its website, atf.org, states, “ATF is a law enforcement agency in the United States’ Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.”
The ATF did not make an immediate comment on Sept. 21. Contacted by telephone, the public information officer for the agency’s Los Angeles Field Division, Ginger Colbrun, asked that an information request be e-mailed to her. A reporter sent the request shortly thereafter. ATF does have agents that work in Imperial County, Colbrun said.
In a twist to the case, Mrs. Dorame’s car had been stolen but was recovered in Brawley on Jan. 18, according to the Imperial statement.