Woman, 83, dies of cold exposure on South Side

(MCT) — Cold exposure contributed to the death of an 83-year-old woman who was found in her home with the temperature at 24 degrees, authorities say.

An autopsy found that Florence Hawkins died of cold exposure and heart disease, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled an accident, the office said.

Hawkins was found in her bed Tuesday morning by a relative who lives with her in the 8200 block of South Chappel Avenue, according to the medical examiner's office. She was pronounced dead on the scene at 8:08 a.m. Tuesday.

The relative told police she had seen Hawkins at 2:30 p.m. Monday before she left for work, and had placed a blanket over her, according to a police report. When she came back later, she thought Hawkins was sleeping.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, she checked on her again but could not wake her, according to the report. The temperature in Hawkins’ apartment was 24 degrees, the report stated.

The National Weather Service reports that the low temperature on Tuesday was 17 degrees and Monday night's low was 23 degrees.

Authorities say there were at least seven cold-related deaths in Cook County during the cold season of 2011-2012, with the first reported on Dec. 3, 2011.