Woman’s Auto-Payments Hid Her Death for Six Years

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(CNN) — For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan.

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself. One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy.

At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid.

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes.

Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

“I’ve been doing this 37 years. Never seen anything like this before,” said Undersheriff Mike McCabe of Oakland County, Michigan, just outside Detroit.

Rarely heard from

The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.

Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.

“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.

“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.

McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time.

Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.

Authorities told WXYZ that the house appears to have black mold inside it, and that detectives entered the building Thursday wearing hazardous material suits.

Another neighbor, Darryl Tillery, told the Detroit Free Press that mail never piled up at the house and the lawn never grew out of order. McCabe said one of the neighbors cut the grass for years.

Cause of death undetermined

Police were dispatched to the house for a welfare check in 2007 after a neighbor reported not having seen the owner in a while. After seeing no signs of anything amiss, police went on their way, McCabe said.

Authorities are still waiting for a toxicology report, which will take four to six weeks, before determining the cause of death. The medical examiner found no signs of trauma to the body, McCabe said.

Dr. Bernardino Pacris, the county deputy medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, told the Detroit Free Press that the woman’s skin was still intact, but that the internal organs had decomposed.

Pacris told the newspaper that during the mummification process, skin develops a parchment-like consistency and leathery texture. Finding a body in such a condition is unusual, he said, but “once in a while, we see this.”

Attempts by CNN to reach Dr. Pacris late Thursday were unsuccessful.


  • SoSueMe

    Since Pontiac is less than a half hour away from Detroit, I find the really odd twist to this story is the house was never vandalized and broke into.

  • Lemontwist

    I find it really odd that the woman had enough money in her bank account to auto pay her bills for SIX years!

    • Andrew

      But you would have thought that the utility companies would have found it odd that no electric was used, no phone calls, etc. Just shows that as long as they receive your money, no company cares about You!!!

  • tarra

    They won’t release her name until FAMILY is notified……….well where was this family that no one thought to check on her in 6 years. How sad. I find it odd that mail did not pile up in 6 years. Sounds fishy.

  • ohioorations

    Sounds like a carbon monoxide suicide. She must have had no loved ones and died alone. No one cared for her. The mortgage company discovered her because they cared for their property. Inn credibly sad story.

  • chris

    Sad that she had nobody to miss her. Reminds me of a funeral procession I witnessed once that had the hearse and on lone car. What a lonely life that had to have been.

  • Heather Robbins

    There’s something fishy about that. She seemed to be rather young and her family just assume that everything is fine even though they haven’t heard from her in 6 years???? Weird.. Js

  • lemontwist4

    I am finding it hard to believe that she would have died of carbon monoxide poisoning when according to the report “The key was halfway in the ignition” which would mean the car was NOT running at least I have never seen a car that runs with the key halfway in.

  • Yahwehswarrior

    Satanist or Illuminati, someone didn’t want her alive, may Yahweh judge her kindly and lovingly!

  • copper

    If she was sitting in the back seat of the car, who was in the front seat and who put the key in the ignition. I believe she was murdered.

  • lemontwist4

    She most likely was having a heart attack. When some women have a heart attack they get sick to their stomach. She could have been getting ready to leave didn’t put the key all the way in because she didn’t want to hear the door ding while she laid down for a minute in the back seat for a minute until she felt better.

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