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Body found in San Francisco hospital stairwell was missing patient, 57

October 09, 2013|By Maura Dolan | This post has been updated, as indicated below.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Officials Wednesday identified the body of a woman discovered in a hospital stairwell Tuesday as a patient who vanished from her hospital room more than two weeks ago.

At a news conference, officials said the dead woman was Lynne Spalding, 57, who entered San Francisco General Hospital on Sept. 19 with an infection. She was discovered missing from her hospital bed on the morning of Sept. 21. Her cellphone was still in the room.

Spalding’s family and friends distributed hundreds of fliers in their search for her and created a “Find Lynne” Facebook page. San Francisco police also were investigating the disappearance.

The San Francisco Sheriff's Department is responsible for security at San Francisco General, a city-owned hospital, and had searched the building for Spalding. A hospital worker discovered Spalding’s body in an exterior stairwell enclosed by wire mesh on the fourth floor of the hospital. 

[Updated 11:47 a.m. PDT Oct. 9: Officials said her body was discovered in a stairwell used as a fire exit and not normally frequented by staff or patients. The alarmed fire door was locked from the outside and the stairs ended at the bottom on the hospital grounds.

An engineering staff member doing a routine check discovered Spalding's body at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Hospital officials said Spalding’s condition was improving when she was last seen in her hospital room at 10:15 a.m. on Sept. 21. A nurse came back to check on her 15 minutes later and discovered she was missing. A search was begun and her family was notified, officials said.

An official of the sheriff's department said it would conduct an investigation into why the earlier search failed to find Spalding.

Speaking at a news conference at the hospital, sheriff's and hospital officials offered their condolences to Spalding’s family but refused to take questions from reporters. They said the San Francisco medical examiner was continuing to investigate what caused Spalding’s death.

A hospital official said the case was unprecedented, and officials did not know why Spalding left her room.] 

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Twitter: @mauradolan

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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