ROMULUS, Mich. – An 8-year-old boy lived for more than a week with the body of his dead mother before telling a concerned shopkeeper his mom was "in a better place," police said.
The woman, 41, apparently died Jan. 9 in their apartment in the Detroit suburb of Romulus, and the boy survived in part by eating dried rice, butter and flour, authorities said.
Police did not release the names of the mother and child, who moved to Michigan from Louisiana after surviving Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Foul play was not suspected in the woman's death.
Lee Saco told The Associated Press that the boy and his mother came into Romulus Liquor regularly for about a year and a half. But four times during the past week the boy uncharacteristically walked about a block to the store by himself — sometimes through Arctic cold and other times wearing pajama bottoms.
"I questioned him, 'Where is your mom?"' Saco said about the boy's first solo visit, in which he bought snacks with cash.
Saco, who co-owns the store with his brother Sam, said that he was curious from the beginning, but his concern heightened on Monday when the boy tried to buy $40 worth of grocery items with his mother's credit card. Saco then asked the boy if he could speak to his mother.
"Is she alive?" Saco asked the boy.
"She's in a better place," the boy replied, who later told Saco he'd tried to revive his mother by pushing on her chest in an apparent attempt at CPR.
"I sat him down, gave him chocolate milk. Then I called Romulus PD," Saco said.
Police arrived and took the boy to the apartment he shared with his mother. They called Saco about 10 minutes later to tell him the boy's mother was dead.
The boy was home-schooled, has no siblings and his father died several years ago, authorities said. The child is in foster care while police try to locate his other relatives, Romulus police Lt. John Leacher said.
"It's sad. It's very hard. It's very unfortunate for him," said Lee Saco, 36, a father of three young children. "I just feel bad. What he had to see for 11 days.
"He came from a good home," Saco said, referring to the boy's mother.