Living with the Dead

When Rita Wolfensohn was taken to hospital in 2016, her sister-in-law Josette Buchman stopped by Rita’s home in Brooklyn to collect some personal items for her. Rita had lived alone in the house after her son Michael died in 2003 and other son, Louis, moved out. Around this time, Rita lost touch with her family, and had only recently regained contact with her brother before being admitted to hospital.

Inside the house
[Photo credit, qaafqalam.com]

Rita was legally blind and a known hoarder, but Josette didn’t expect the disarray she found. Rubbish littered the house, food was decaying, and piles of Rita’s belongings filled every available space. Not an ideal or safe environment for someone who is blind.

Whilst collecting Rita’s belongings to take to the hospital, Josette found herself upstairs in Louis’ old room which hadn’t been touched since he moved out. It was “overflowing, really like the rest of the home, with awfully [sic] smells, trash, junk and garbage of every, and any, nature” (qaafqalam.com). However, she made a tragic discovery: Louis had never moved out. His skeleton, still wearing jeans, shirt and socks, was lying on the bed in his room.

When the police asked Rita about her son’s, she told them Michael had died and Louis had moved out, but she hadn’t heard from him since.  It seems hard to believe that you could be unaware of a corpse in your home for twenty years, but the Police are satisfied that this is what happened. The combination of visual impairment and disarray of the home, mean the smell and sight of the decaying body may well have been masked.  Unlike other instances of unreported deaths, the body shows no evidence of being moved or disturbed since the death. Louis’ death has been declared to be due to natural causes and the coroners findings support the body having been there for twenty years.

We can never be sure if Rita knew her son had never left. Rita is understood to be recovering well and is believed to have moved into an assisted living facility in Long Island.

References:  Rollingstone.com  –  qaafqalam.com

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