Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ISDP: Don’t Mess with Texas Edition

The daffodils are out in force on the grounds of First Nerve Manor and the lilacs are about to burst forth. Good news for fragrance lovers. But for those with nostrils tuned to the macabre side of the smellscape, this month’s pickings from the gloomy field of decompositional olfactology are equally impressive. We begin with some contributions from the great state of Texas.

On March 28, the Houston Chronicle’s Dale Lezon reported that the decomposing remains of a man were found “in an apartment just east of downtown Houston late last night after neighbors noted a foul odor in the area.”

A few days later in Corpus Christi, television station KZTV reported that an autopsy was planned in the suspicious death of a person whose body was found in an apartment near Blucher Park. “According to police, neighbors called 911 after they detected a bad smell coming from the apartment.”

Then, just this week, the spotlight shifted back to Houston where we meet our latest Norman Bates Award nominees: 48-year-old twin brothers Edwin Larry Berndt and Edward Christian Berndt.
Twin Houston men were charged Tuesday with the murder of their 89-year-old mother after police say the pair allowed her to die on the floor in their foyer after she fell, then lived for three months with her decomposing, bug-infested corpse.
Associated Press writer Ramit Plushnick-Masit (no relation to Damit Mashie-Niblick) provides details:
Edwin Berndt said he and his brother were watching the BCS Championship football game when their mother “came in ranting and raving and she then fell down and did not get up.”

For the first day, Sybil Berndt was conscious and able to speak, but did not ask for any help, Edwin Berndt said. His brother said they didn’t give her any food or water while she lay on the floor.

Three days later, on Jan. 13, the elderly woman died, Edwin Berndt told police. He told them he remembered the date because it was a day after her 89th birthday.
Good grief.

Here’s an item for all you Hoarders fans:
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said an 80-year-old woman whose body was found in her Chicago town house buried under piles of debris died from natural causes.

The badly decomposed body of Cecylia Opilka was found Thursday by workers responding to complaints of a bad smell coming from the house.
And finally, a study in journalistic contrasts. Here’s the Quietly Canadian headline: “Man’s body found in Ottawa apartment”.
Cops discovered the body after neighbours complained to the landlord about a foul smell on the 11th floor of The Oaks apartment building.
And here’s the classically hyperbolic screaming header from that treasury of ISDP material, The New York Daily News:
Rotting, mutilated body of 400-lb. man found in bag in Bronx housing project
Amid the usual stuff about a bloody hatchet and cleaning products strewn about the room, there’s this key sentence that also serves as a nice caution about the hubris of naming public buildings after living people:
Patrol officers responding to a different incident at the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in Soundview caught a whiff of a foul odor coming from another apartment, the sources said.
In other words, the discovery of the rotting, mutilated 400-pound victim was due to someone with a fine nose for police work. Ann Arbor columnist Rich Kinsey touches on some of the unpleasant aspects of what police call “well-being checks.”
It all starts with a call from someone who is concerned about a family member, friend or neighbor who they have not heard from in several days.

Some of the worst calls come from letter carriers who notice a foul odor and are worried about a person who has not collected their mail for several weeks.
Still want to go to police academy?
While checking around the home, officers will literally be “nosing around” using their sense of smell to detect the foul odor of decomposition.
So long until next month!

UPDATE April 16, 2011

We should have, uh, dug more deeply into the case of Mrs. Opilka, the recently deceased hoarder. It turns out she lived with her 43-year-old son Ronald, also a hoarder. He was on the scene when police arrived; asked for his ID, he pulled out his wallet as well as a bag of pot. He appears to be of questionable mental capacity, but that doesn't stop us from nominating him for this year's Norman Bates Award.


The Frowzy Chickadee said...

Oh boy, I just had a chance to catch my breath! Super, super funny! Ahhh, makes one wonder about having kids! Although her "boys" acted no differently than a cat would have.

Avery Gilbert said...

Frowzy Chickadee:

The behavior of the Berndt twins is baffling on many levels. Never mind that they didn't help their mother. Why, after she expired, did they make no attempt to move her body out of the foyer? Place her in her bedroom? Hide her in a storage closet?

Too weird.