Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials received the final autopsy report from the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s Office for Susan J. Bennett, known as Jenny, of Sylva, NC. Bennett was reported missing and discovered off trail by rangers in the Greenbrier area of the park above backcountry campsite 31 on June 8. The report concludes that Bennett died of environmental hypothermia due to cold exposure from partial submersion in Porter’s Creek.
Bennett was found in a sitting position in the creek with her head resting on rocks. According to the final autopsy report, she had bruises on her right hip and elbow consistent with a fall. However, she did not have any internal or musculoskeletal trauma. Bennett did have a toxic level of diphenhydramine concentration in her blood which is considered a significant contributing factor in her death and points towards an intentional overdose.
Bennett, age 62, was an avid hiker in the Smoky Mountains and maintained a blog about her trips. She was a member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and often liked to hike off trail in the park.