NORTH CANTON, Ohio - Friends say Judith Shumar, 66, had suffered a stroke and was in poor health. She was discovered dead in her home on Thanksgiving morning.
Her son Eric Adams had come from California and on Monday was cleaning out her belongings when he came across a blue foot locker, or trunk, stored in a spare bedroom.
"It was locked. He and his cousin opened it up just to make sure if there was anything important in it and there was," said North Canton Police Chief Eric Wilder.
Wilder said inside the foot locker was a plastic bag, and when Adams opened it to see what was inside he discovered what appeared to be the bones of a long-deceased infant.
Shumar's property manager, Doug Lindower, was there.
"I saw bones, a skull. There was like a baby skull and a bunch of bones and a deteriorated blanket which I suspect has been in there for a long, you know, many, many years," said Lindower.
Police said the discovery became even more alarming after the remains were turned over to the Stark County Coroner's Office.
"Later on that evening, we did get a call from the coroner's office and the investigator did say there were human remains in the foot locker and there was not only one but skeletal remains of two infants," said Wilder.
Lindower said Shumar lived alone and kept to herself.
Chief Wilder said Adams did not have a close relationship with his mother but was aware of the trunk.
"He did say he was familiar with the foot locker because he remembered moving it for his mother back when she moved into the mobile home but he was moving all kinds of belongings you know from her former residence into North Canton but he had no knowledge what was in it," said Wilder.
Police said there is no way to know how long the remains had been there.
Lindower guesses it may have been decades based on the condition of blankets that were also in the foot locker that were badly decomposing.
"It was done with care," explained Lindower, adding, "I mean it wasn't thrown in there. There was blankets in there; then a trash bag was on top of the blankets and there was actually blankets over the bag too."
Chief Wilder said investigators are going backwards with their investigation trying to contact relatives and former acquaintances in Lewisville, where she previously lived. "Peeling it back like an onion," said Wilder.
In the meantime, the remains are being sent to the anthropology department at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania for a more careful examination.
"Hopefully from that, we will be able to determine age, maybe sex and if we have any DNA that we can compare that to; that might be an avenue for us to help try to, you know, track where theses skeletal remains came from or who they belong to," said Wilder.
The DNA tests could help make a direct connection between the remains and Shumar.
If they can't, police know they have an even bigger mystery on their hands.
"There's going to be a number of speculations that we could probably come up with right now but I'd have to say they didn't get there by themselves, obviously," said Wilder.