WILMINGTON, N.C. – The body of an elderly woman remained in her bed for up to eight months even though caretakers paid daily visits to the house and kept it tidy, authorities said Wednesday.
Sheriff's deputies were investigating the suspicious death of Blanche Matilda Roth after the corpse was found in her suburban home in Wilmington, on the Atlantic coast, on Tuesday following a call to 911.
New Hanover County Deputy Charles Smith said Roth likely died in May, before her 88th birthday in September. Her body was found after the 911 caller, whose identity was being withheld by authorities, reported that an elderly woman in the home was unconscious and not breathing.
Smith said caretakers had been going in and out of the house on a quiet cul-de-sac on a daily basis. He would not specify if the caretakers were family members but said they were not nurses. At least four other people also lived in the house, a neighbor said.
Failure to report a death is a felony in North Carolina.
Smith said the residence was very well kept. He said police hadn't received any calls requesting welfare checks on Roth.
Officials are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
"They were quiet and stayed to themselves all the time," neighbor Ray Taylor, 72, said of the home's residents.
Martin Pedersen, another neighbor, said he had no idea Roth had died.
Pedersen, 55, said four other family members, a married couple and two sons, lived in the house and that a younger son went to school every day.
Pedersen said the family was nice and the news surprised him. He used to see the elderly woman walking to the mailbox with another family member holding her arm. "They'd be laughing and everything else."
He couldn't recall when he last saw her.