Woman’s mummified body found in her car 6 years after her death

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(photo from WXYZ)

(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.


  • Cindy Ellsworth

    How odd the body was in the back seat. Not many single owners get in the back unless someone they know is driving, they are loadung ir unloading it, or they are cleaning out their car. The article does not give other descriptive scenes. What caused the mold in the house? What about an employer? Such an interesting story.

  • Rick Lundeen

    Same thing happened to the “B” movie actress Yvette Vickers (one time pin up model) back in 2010 or so. She live din a nice house in Malibu and was of the age that she got social security, everything was automatated so money came into her account and bills were paid. She had died of natural causes in a chair, wtaching TV but wasn’t found till years later. She had become a recluse and nieghbors didn’t think anything was wrong because everything was kept up.

  • CC

    And the mail just kept coming, but no one noticed? Neighbors mowed the yard to “keep It looking tidy”, etc… etc… A little more than “a little bity” weird…… Or am I the only one who thinks so?

    • Christine

      No, I think you are correct. The entire thing is just freaky. Like someone else said, no papers? no mail? Even if she ha a p.o. box, it would get weird after a period of time. Any why WAS she sitting in the backseat? If her key was half out of the ignition, then it wouldnt be running….seriously needs some investigation…

  • Cam

    Maybe it could have been a typo and she really was in the front seat, and was she sitting up? laying down? If she was in the back seat then she possibly could of had a friend over that was driving or about to drive and something naturally or phisically done to her and the person flead, it just wouldnt make any since if the key was half way in, when she was in the backseat, and they said she was a quiet traveling lady which could mean she had little to no friends and her only other alternative would be business partners, but I still feel like it was a typo or something

  • Rebekah

    And what about the bank? Did they not think it odd that money keeps flowing out of the account, but no money goes in. For 6 years the woman never goes to the bank, never withdraws cash say for food or other day to day necessities? No other normal transactions except to pay monthly bills. Somebody should have noticed.

  • Aadrian Jim

    She isnt close with her family. Hasnt talked to her kids for some as long as 30 yrs ago! Her mother got remarried 3 yrs ago. They sent her invitation, but before that, they hasnt talked for years and year. They tried to call her, sent her letters, but their mail always got returned.

    Is what is mind boggling, is she worked for a BANK! She travelled all over apparantly for a bank. Its speculated that she may have lost her job, because they found resumes on her driveway or something. Maybe she committed suicide after losing her job, and being lonely with no family that talks to her! Explains why in the back seat. Could of shut the vehilce off, scared someone would try to stop her and hear her in the garage. Once the garage is full or exhaust, you could easily shut the car off and still pass out and die.

    No bank is going to ask questions if your not using there account for anything other than bills. People get new bank accounts everyday, its not that suspicious. A bank doesnt know what other accounts you have, etc , etc. But if she had a job, that EMPLOYER should definitely of checked on her. Especially knowing she isnt from here and alone

  • Leah

    It really bugs me when my mum calls me every two hours but after reading this I am certainly glad I have someone who love and checks up on me. Very sad she didn’t have that person.

  • Melissa

    This women must have been LOADED in order to have all her bills automatically being paid for SIX YEARS!!! When it said she was in the back seat of her car with the keys in the ignition I was thinking maybe she killed herself. But it wasn’t turned on and only halfway out the ignition. The same thing also happened in England and it was a younger girl that no one found until after 5 years and they found her in her apartment. On the couch she died of natural causes. They made a movie out of it as well. The girl had no real family or friends.

  • Big Dave

    My guuess would be she attempted suicide , left jeeep running and got in the back seat , when she had a change of mind she tried to remove the key from the ignition , weakened and groggy she sat back down and slipped away.

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