PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – Police in Parma Heights continue their investigation into a bizarre case involving a man who died as the result of his own hoarding.
It turns out he had also been hiding the death of his mother for a decade.
Their small home on Manorford Drive harbored many dark secrets, but they began to come to light in March of this year after a neighbor realized that mail was starting to pile up outside the house.
“I went by the next day and it was still overflowing, so I thought, ‘something is not right,’ so I called the police and asked them to check on him,” Cathy Antus said.
A prior welfare check by police years earlier revealed the owner, Robert Ellzey, was hoarding mountains of boxes, books, magazines and household items.
During a search of the house on March 2, officers discovered the body of the 70-year-old, buried in a pile of items he had been hoarding.
“One would have to crawl through or over some of those piles to even get through the house.
The Medical Examiner’s Office determined it was positional asphyxia, so more or less, the clutter around him had trapped him in his own home,” said Detective Adam Sloan.
Detectives were alarmed when neighbors reported that Robert Ellzey told them that his mother, Lois Ellzey, had died ten years earlier.
“When we went to research Lois and look up her name, there was no record that she had actually passed away. She was still receiving social security checks, retirement funds. If you run her license, it doesn’t show that she’s deceased,” said Detective Sloan.
Police then tried to determine if Lois Ellzey, who would now be 97 years old, was still alive, or dead as her son had reported to neighbors.
While going through Robert Ellzey’s mail, investigators discovered that he had been paying for several storage units.
“We did check one storage unit, similar to the house, except it’s not lived in, lots of boxes, books magazines, things like that, but we didn’t find anything that showed what happened to his mother,” said Detective Sloan.
It turns out that he rented a second storage unit in Brook Park, and the contents were eventually put up for auction. Then in May, police were called after the new owner reported finding a box inside the unit that contained skeletal remains.
Police confirmed that the remains found inside the unit were those of Lois Ellzey.
The Medical Examiner estimates that she died in 2012 and police then discovered why Robert Ellzey may have created the illusion that his mother was still alive for the past ten years.
“It did appear that Robert was still collecting Lois’ social security and retirement funds, so at some point her body was placed there, we don’t know when,” Detective Sloan told FOX 8.
When asked about her reaction to the news, his neighbor told us, “I was appalled. I was really appalled and I even felt a little betrayed. It was like I was feeling sorry for him and his living situation and then realizing that he kept his mother’s death a secret so that he could continue to collect her Social Security and retirement, it just put him in a different light with me.”
Investigators are still to determine how Lois Ellzey died, but they do say there is a possibility that she died of natural causes and that her son decided to hide that fact so that he could keep collecting the money.