BELLEAIR — Mary Zelter, the 86-year-old woman who vanished last week and was found Monday night, died in an accidental drowning, the Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday.
Zelter was found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway near a Clearwater boat ramp late Monday. Her submerged car was pulled from about 6 feet of water Tuesday morning.
While police have said there is no outward sign of criminal activity, Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts said it was too early to make a final conclusion. Police are still waiting for toxicology reports and for her car to dry out enough for it to be examined.
Zelter's daughter, Mary Lallucci, spoke briefly to reporters Wednesday morning in the driveway of her Belleair home.
She thanked police, the public and the media for helping in the search for her mother, who did not return Feb. 26 after signing out of her assisted living facility.
"The human kindness that has come forward is amazing," said Lallucci, 54, who works as senior vice president of client services for the Tampa office of Right Management, a career management and human resource consulting firm.
It is still a mystery to the family why Zelter disappeared. Lalluci said police believed that her mother drove into the water on the same day she vanished. She had no cell phone at the time; she usually went on short trips.
But a week ago Tuesday she drove to an Albertsons in Largo and bought $30 worth of merchandise, but she never returned to the facility.
Her body was recovered about 10 miles away.
Lallucci said the family will continue to call for the creation of a so-called Silver Alert system in Florida that would help locate missing and endangered older adults.
"We have no way yet of knowing whether it would have helped my mom," Lallucci said. "But there's no question that in a state with as many senior citizens as ours, the ability to rapidly alert law enforcement and citizens of a missing senior is essential."