KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Another American died while visiting the Dominican Republic earlier this week, according to her family.
William Cox said that his mother, Leyla Cox, was celebrating her 53rd birthday in the Caribbean country when he found out she died of natural causes–most likely a heart attack.
Cox said his mother was staying at the Excellence Resort in Punta Cana. It was her third time traveling to the country and staying at the resort.
According to a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department, Leyla Cox died on June 10, which was the day after her birthday.
Cox said he doesn’t believe his mother died of heart failure. She was healthy and walked nearly 10 miles every day. She was living in Staten Island and had no car.
He believes the country is trying to cover up how his mother died.
Investigating authorities in the Dominican Republic said in their report they initially spoke with the director of security at the hotel when they arrived on the scene.
According to the preliminary death investigation report, Leyla Cox’s body was found on the floor of her hotel room. The report also details handwritten notes by the investigating medical personnel.
The preliminary report from the scene also stated that Leyla Cox probably died from an “acute myocardial infarction.”
Cox said that officials wanted to cremate her body fairly soon after her death, leaving out the possibility of a toxicology and autopsy being done in the U.S. With the help of Greg Isaacs, his lawyer, and U.S. Representative Tim Burchett, the cremation was delayed until Monday.
“I feel like I’m never going to get real answers unless it was a US autopsy performed, or a US toxicology performed, and unfortunately that it not possible,” Cox said.
Leyla Cox’s death was the fourth death of an American tourist in the Dominican Republic within a month.
According to ABC News, the other three died of respiratory failure, but their families don’t believe that’s the correct cause either.
The U.S. State Department released this statement about the death investigations in the Dominican Republic: “The U.S. Embassy is actively monitoring the investigations by Dominican authorities into these tragic deaths.”
Cox said his mother was his role model. He said he was worried that his mother traveled to the Dominican Republic by herself, but even if he told her he didn’t want her to go alone, he knew she would still go.
“She was a strong, independent woman and the most caring person I’ve ever met….She felt comfortable going alone because she’s been there, and she enjoyed it. And she was a beach person. She absolutely loved the beach,” Cox said.
He said the best possible outcome for this situation isn’t possible. If it were, he would have his mother’s body flown to the U.S. for an autopsy and toxicology test.
“The best possible option that I could hope for is they perform a correct autopsy and they’re honest on their autopsy, and that they send my actual mother’s remains back. And hopefully, God willing, a tube of her blood so that we can get our own toxicology performed in the states,” Cox said.
Cox is waiting to hear back from the U.S. Embassy to find out whether obtaining a vial of his mother’s blood is possible.
Cox has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help bring his mother’s remains back to the U.S.
He said even though he will only be able to get her ashes, it’s still expensive.
He plans on keeping his mother’s wishes and spreading her ashes in the Florida Keys.