Carolyn Ann Watkins, 62, of Clayton was reported missing by her son early Monday after she failed to show up at work.
An accident report filed Friday by N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Marlon Williams shows her crashed 2000 Pontiac was found Friday morning in a deep ditch near Smithfield, about 30 miles southeast of Raleigh. Both air bags deployed.
"Note: No driver at the scene of this collision," Williams wrote in his report.
The patrol had a local towing company move the car to a lot for storage, where it remained with the Clayton woman inside until her body was discovered Monday evening by a Smithfield police officer searching for clues about her disappearance.
It was not immediately clear when Watkins died. She was last seen alive Thursday.
Watkins' son, Al Parker, wondered if his mother's life might have been saved if the trooper had noticed her in the car.
"I'm thinking she could still have been alive," Parker said Tuesday. "How do you not look in the car? When you pulled the car out, how do you not see a body in the car?"
Williams, a 9-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, has been placed on paid administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal review that will be conducted with help from the State Bureau Investigation. The patrol refused to release any further information about the incident.
"We will release accurate information to the public as soon as available and appropriate," Public Safety Commissioner Frank Perry said in a brief written statement. "At this early stage, our main concern is to conduct a thorough and professional investigation so we can determine exactly what happened."