Plant that Whittier women thought was spinach possibly linked to their deaths

WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- A woman and her mother, ages 76 and 95, were found dead inside of a Whittier home Monday evening, authorities said.

Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters responded about 8:45 p.m. to the 12400 block of Beverly Drive, where one woman was found not breathing and another was pronounced dead at the scene.

The second woman later died, but it was unclear if her death occurred at the home or at a hospital.

The deceased were identified by the coroner as Angelina Tunacao, 95, and Miriam Tunacao, 76.

According to the Whittier Police Department, a preliminary investigation indicated the deaths were accidental.

Some unconfirmed reports indicate that carbon monoxide poisoning was one possibility being investigated.

A relative of the two women told Eyewitness News there was another possibility. The two women maintained a garden at the home and often picked and ate plants from there, he said.

He said there is a possibility one of the plants they picked and consumed was misidentified and may have been toxic.

"They ingested/cooked a stew with what they thought was spinach," said Jason Billones. "We think it might actually be called tree tobacco."

He said investigators are examining the plants and a stew that his aunt and his great grandmother made from the garden as part of their investigation.

Official results from coroner's autopsies were pending.
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