A transient woman was found dead Thursday on a former railroad trestle in an area she often called home.
April Joy Vandermoon, 42, was found by a passerby around noon just south of Lodi Avenue above Highway 99. Police soon called in detectives because they initially thought the death could be suspicious, though investigators later said there was no sign of foul play.
Vandermoon, homeless for at least a decade, was fighting cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, according to friends and police. Investigators also found heart medication at the scene, Detective Sgt. Doug Chinn said.
The brown-haired woman recycled cans for a living, sometimes resulting in police citing her for using a shopping cart to haul cans and her belongings.
At one point she had lived with her mother in Stockton, but her mother has since moved, said Joe Donally, who met Vandermoon in 1994 at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Donally and Vandermoon became a couple after that meeting and lived on the streets of Lodi for years, until Donally decided in April 2005 to clean up his life. The two split up and Donally has been working full-time for more than a year, though he maintains contact with his old friends.
In less than a few hours after police put up yellow crime scene tape around Vandermoon's body Thursday, word of her death had traveled quickly.
"April was a good person; she had a good heart," Donally said, adding that he's lost about six friends in the past two years.
He said he received an offer of a cold drink of whiskey to make him feel better, but Donally turned it down, knowing that one drink would ruin his nearly two and a half years of sober living.
Patrol officers sent to the scene Thursday instantly recognized Vandermoon, then called for detectives because they weren't sure about the death.
She was wearing a shirt but no clothing below her waist, though there was no sign of a struggle, Lt. Chet Somera said at the scene.
Detectives talked to other transients who frequent the area, and they said Vandermoon had spent the last couple of days sitting there without clothing on the lower half of her body, Chinn said.
The county's medical examiner told Chinn that Vandermoon's body had likely been there for 12 to 24 hours, and an autopsy will be conducted today to determine the cause of death.