February 26, 2009

Very sad story: partially mummified body of woman found in Walnut Creek condo

This week we saw a fair amount of news coverage about the decomposed body of an elderly woman found in a Piedmont home, and how the owner of the home had not been seen in years.

Sadly, another senior woman died alone in her home, and her passing also went unnoticed for an extended period of time.

And this case happened in Walnut Creek.

We were alerted to this case from another crazy in suburbia mom. And here's the very disturbing story I was able to piece together, thanks to the help of Walnut Creek police Sgt. Lanny Edwards and a deputy with the Contra Costa County Coroner's department:

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 18, a workman at the Diablo Keys residential complex, in the 300 block of North Civic Drive, entered a condomium unit to install a fire alarm.

And that's when he made a horrifying discovery: He found a 62-year-old woman sitting on the toilet.

She was dead.

Police and coroner’s deputies later determined that, from the condition of the body and from talking to neighbors and witnesses, that she had probably been dead for five to six months.

A coroner’s deputy described the woman's body as "partially mummified." He also said the cause of death was natural causes. He added that his office had been unable to locate a next of kin, so he could not release her name. Her case has been turned over to the county’s Public Administrator’s office, which investigates and handles the estates of people who die with no will or without someone available to oversee the estate.

Walnut Creek Sgt. Edwards said police don’t suspect anything illegal occurred in this woman’s death--as in the Piedmont case. Police in Piedmont are investigating whether someone knew that the woman was dead but “had improperly disposed of her body"--as in just left her there.

With regard to the Walnut Creek woman, the coroner’s deputy agreed with my observation—that it can be easy for some people to fall through the cracks in our society. Just disappear with no one—family or friends—being clued in. And this can even happen to a woman who must have been doing okay enough in her life that she owned a condominium in a pleasant residential Walnut Creek complex.

This case makes me think of elderly people in my Walnut Creek neighborhood who live alone, in the homes they bought 30, 40, 50 years ago. If they don’t have family or neighbors checking in periodically, there is a risk that they could fall through these cracks. They could suffer from some medical emergency—heart attack, stroke—or they could take a tumble in their house or back yard and not be able to call for help.

Edwards agreed that this woman’s case is “sad." He added: "I agree with your assessment that we all need to be good neighbors and watch over each other.”


Anonymous said...

'Help, I'm on the toilet and I can't get up.'

Isn't there a buzzer for this? Or, 'if I don't call in once a week, someone will check'?

Seems there ought to be a way.....

Anonymous said...

Just goes to prove that although it may be easy to fall through the cracks, the toilet seat is an entirely different issue.

Soccer Mom said...

I hope we're not getting into butt crack jokes and finding amusement that this poor woman died on her toilet.

First, perhaps I should have avoided the "fallen through the cracks metaphor." As for being old and dealing with toilet issues: just wait. It will happen to you. It will happen to all of us.

Whatever the circumstances, this story breaks my heart.

I find this story very sad, cautionary, and frightening.

Death could happen any time, at at the most undignified moments, including while sitting on the toilet, urinating or trying to take a dump.

Actually, from what I've witnessed in my personal life, the whole process of getting old and sick and dying is not all that pretty.
Smells, stumbling around, confusion, incontinence, constipation, misery, memory loss...

That's what we all get to face, either from ourselves or with people we love.

Get used to it.

But people persevere, in spite of what we would consider "indignities" and annoyances.

Overall, I think it's sad that this woman died--and no one noticed--and that she has no next of kin to nofify of her death or to handle her estate.

Anonymous said...

Which parts were mummified?

Anonymous said...

(Just because CSI-WC wants to know. To solve the situation)

Anna said...

Sad story. I understand how this could happen. I have known several elderly single persons, with no children, and very few acquaintances. It probably happens more than we know, just not left so long as 5 months.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I call my grandmother every week on Saturday, at the same time. She knows to be home then, or calls me ahead of time if she can't be home. All of her neighbors are wonderful people too. If her garage isn't open my 8am, they go check on her. She has lived alone for almost 20 years now since my grandfather passed away.

ames said...

Well said Soccer Mom. Maybe with whole downturn of the economy people can slow down and see what is important. Family, friends, even the neighbors who you barely know. This woman had been deceased for months, through the holidays, etc. Not sure why the mail carrier didn't get a heads up or even the neighbors, not a way I'd like to be remembered.

Anonymous said...

That she was found dead in her bathroom would have been enough. The toilet image wasn't necessary. Her story was sad enough,show a little respect for the dead.

Anonymous said...

this is the saddest story, and possibly the kind of thing that could happen to any number of single people as they get older. I thought there was a system under which postal workers would notify authorities if mail started stacking up unattended for long periods? This makes me wonder if that system is not in place; it could really help.

Anonymous said...

I think this happened to Dr. Laura's mom. Radio big shots mom dead for months in Beverly Hills apt.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder, SC. This story brought tears to my eyes, how horrible that no one noticed for 5 months. :( I'm going to have a visit with my elderly neighbor this afternoon.
I have to agree with Ames, maybe this downturn will help us all realize what's important in life, the people, not the things.

Anonymous said...

Truthfully, I don't understand why this is so horrible. You people are all fantasizing about how bad this woman's life was. Since death is natural, and we're all going to die, is it really so bad that she went alone and in her own home? Maybe she preferred it that way!

Anonymous said...

This is sad to have died and gone unnoticed for so long. Didn't the mail pile up? Wasn't there an odor? I'm single and without kids and that's my fear with aging alone. To die and have no one care or even notice for months. Ten years ago I moved to the big city from a rural community because I craved that anonymity, but now I see the value in having relationships and developing a sense of community.

I watched a documentary on the Weather Channel a couple months ago about the 1995 Chicago heat wave. It was horrific the number of elderly (particulary poor ones) that died because no one cared to knock on a door or make a call. They learned after that fiasco and instituted procedures to make sure the elderly were checked on.

It doesn't take much, and I'm holding myself accountable to doing more, to caring more.

CafeMama said...

Everyone is mentioning the elderly, but was this woman really all that elderly? My mom passed away at 60, and a very young, able 60 at that. I mean this poor woman was a baby boomer, had just barely reached retirement age. In any case this is a very sad story.

Anonymous said...

I would hardly call 62 elderly anymore. My parents are 62 and 63 and elderly is the last thing that comes to mind when referring to them. Elderly is latter 70's and 80's.. you know.. old!

Anonymous said...

These comments show the true character of the modern day American. There is an aggressive/selfish behavior that would even capitalize on a poor dead woman's loneliness. Unregulated capitalism has come to this. Very sad indeed. The story of this women is just the surface. Dig deeper into the comments and you will truly see how sad and lonely many Americans are.