Sunday, September 13, 2015

Summer's Bounty: An ISDP Cornucopia

We were stuffing pages from an old copy of the Guardian into our wet boots the other evening when we noticed a piece by our pal, the winsome Katie Puckrik: “Bottling the smell of dead people won’t capture their essence.” Our first reaction was, “the hell it won’t.” But then we realized she was talking about Olfactory Links, a French enterprise based on the idea of “olfactory comfort” or capturing the scent of a departed loved one. Katie riffs on the idea in her characteristic style. For example, the company’s method is “a high-tech variation of boiling dad down to a reduction sauce.”

A million people write about fragrance. What sets Katie apart is the thoughtfulness and vividness she brings to it:
family smell associations are both more nuanced and more abstract than anything produced by an enfleurage of my parents’ senior-style velour tracksuits. I don’t know that I’d find their literal smell more comforting than that of cut grass (Dad mowing the lawn), or of leather ballet slippers (Mom driving me to dance class), or even of the lung-shrivelling damp that crept up from the cellar as their house aged along with them.
Katie is firing up her Katie Puckrik Smells blog again and it’s worth stopping by. We will as soon as we hack into our neighbor’s WiFi.

Meanwhile, it appears that we may need to open an ISDP news bureau in Japan to cover the rising epidemic of what are called “solitary deaths”
(孤立死 or koritsu-shi).
According to data made public by the Tokyo coroner’s office, in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, some 2,733 people over the age of 65 were found dead while living alone in Tokyo’s 23 wards. The figures showed a continuous increase over the previous decade. The office also had data on the average number of days that had passed from the dead person’s last human contact. Compared with six days for women, the average for men was double.
Underlying the phenomenon is Japan’s population structure—fewer young people to look after an increasing proportion of elderly—and perhaps changing cultural norms, in which a preoccupation with social media takes precedence over family obligations. On the bright side, Japan Today notes that the increase in koritsu-shi has created a commercial niche for specialized clean-up crews.
Finally, blogger Maki notes how use of the related terms koritsu-shi and kodoku-shi reflect recent changes in language and in the Japanese attitude towards deaths that take place in social isolation.

This month’s ISDP summary is swollen to grotesque proportions by the heat of August. We begin with an item from Brooklyn that should have been included in last month’s edition.
Police found a man’s decomposing body inside a Brownsville apartment, authorities said. The grim discovery was made Saturday night after neighbors reported a foul odor coming from inside an apartment at the Chester Street home near Dumont Street, cops said.
Upstate in Batavia, New York, a body found in Kibbe Park turned out to be that of a missing 49-year-old man. His body was discovered “after workers at the park noticed a foul odor, and then discovered him in Tonawanda Creek.”

More news from Philadelphia, the city that let ghoulish butcher M.D. Kermit Gosnell thrive for years: A “terrible stench” leads neighbors to discover corpses from a funeral home stored in a garage. The funeral home director, Janet Powell Daley, had an expired business license and an expired license as a funeral director. She had not responded to citations regarding either one.

A decomposed body was found in the back set of a car parked next to a supermarket in West Covina, California “after someone noticed a foul odor coming from the car and peered inside.” The body was that of an Uber driver, a 36-year-old woman from Irvine.

In Youngstown, Ohio, police found the decomposed body of a man in a wooded area behind a home, after a citizen reported “a foul odor coming from a vacant home.”

In Blairsville, Georgia, neighbors of Randy Ray Siggers on Highway 325 “reported a foul odor coming from his residence.” His body was found inside.

The headline from Forest Lake, Minnesota: “Foul odor in Forest Lake apartment leads police to body; man held.” The body was that of a woman; the man was her boyfriend. Officers were called by the landlord who “reported a foul smell coming from the south end of the building.”

In San Antonio, Texas, police found a body inside a vacant home after a neighbor called about a foul odor. It appears the victim had been kidnapped several days earlier.

Lingering After Effects

In Topeka, Kansas, a woman complains that “she can’t escape a foul odor coming from a neighbor’s home.”
Kim Boyd says the odor’s been around ever since a decomposing body was removed from the house next door to her in the 1200 block of SW 25th. (. . .) Boyd says the smell is so bad, her son won’t go outside and play.
Sounds like a job for Taiichi Yoshida's cleanup crew.

There are none so anosmic as those who will not smell . . .

In San Antonio, Texas, police received a late-night call about a foul odor coming from a vacant house. They found a decomposed body in a bathtub on the second floor.
Roger Aguilar, who works as at church across the street, heard about the disturbing discovery and drove by the area. He said he has noticed a lot of activity around the house in the past, but didn’t notice anything unusual lately. “I never smelled anything. I never noticed anything,” Aguilar said. “We always see traffic in and out of there, people coming out, so we don’t know who’s the actual person that lives there.”
Doth he protest too much? Police say the body had been there for a week. They are treating it as a homicide.

At the Penn Plaza Apartment in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA, a man’s decomposed body was found in his unit.
“The man lay inside his apartment for seven or eight days, by the door, and where was security at? Why didn’t security officials walk the halls and report any foul odor to management?” said resident Gayle Williams.
In Brockton, Massachusetts, the body of a 24-year-old homicide victim was found in the backyard of an abandoned home on Boylston Street.
Susan Russo, who lives on nearby Winona Street, told the Enterprise she started smelling a foul odor on Wednesday.
“I started smelling it Wednesday but it was also trash night so I thought it was just trash,” Russo, 54, said. “My neighbor, it smelled really bad in her yard and as you walked into her yard and the next yard it smelled disgusting.”
Later, Ms. Russo complained to The Patriot Ledger that she was troubled by the discovery.
Susan Russo didn’t get much sleep after finding out that the foul odor she had been smelling in her neighborhood this week was coming from the body of a man in a nearby backyard.
“I just couldn’t sleep knowing that. It’s really bothersome. This is a decent neighborhood and it’s really bothersome that they found a body here,” Russo, 54, said Friday.
Talk about bothersome. Who is this “they” that found a body? You smelled it first, lady.

In contrast to these dispiriting reports, here’s a reminder that concerned citizens can and do rise to the occasion. In California, Calaveras County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a foul odor and “located the remains of an adult male off the roadway.” The remains were found “off Winton Road near Lily Gap Road in a sparsely populated area several miles east of West Point, between Highways 4 and 88. A person driving through the area reported the foul smell to the Sheriff’s Office.

Annals of Marketing

The FOX Connecticut TV channel manages to needlessly piss off at least two potential advertisers:
WEST HARTFORD – Police are investigating the discovery of a dead body in a car outside the Red Robin restaurant near Best Buy at the Corbin’s Corner shopping center. A call came in to police at about 4 p.m. Sunday from a shopper who reported a foul odor and possible body.
Down in Putnam County, Florida, the body of a young woman was found in a cemetery. According to an initial story, it was discovered by a local pastor.
“I noticed a foul odor,” said the Rev. Christopher Coleman. Coleman said he was preparing a grave for an upcoming service Thursday morning at the remote Gethsemane Cemetery.
In a subsequent story, Rev. Coleman is identified as the owner of Coleman Mortuary. Would it be to cynical to suggest that he gave reporters his commercial bona fides after he realized the PR opportunity provided by the new coverage? Yeah, probably.

Minutes of the Rules Committee

Long-time readers know that to qualify as an ISDP incident, the stench of decay must lead to the discovery of human remains; odor noticed in the course of investigating a welfare check or a missing person complaint does not qualify, and we don’t bother posting such cases. So this case from Lake Worth, Florida presents a difficult case for the Rules Committee.
While Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detectives were handing out missing person fliers today on South L Street, they smelled a “foul odor” that led them to human remains, PBSO reported. After noticing the stench in Lake Worth south of Lake Avenue, the deputies investigated and found what the medical examiner’s office later confirmed were human remains.
We don’t yet know that the discovered remains were those of the person in the flyer. If they were not, it’s clearly an ISDP incident. If they were, we’re still inclined to credit the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detectives for olfactory alertness and follow-through.

Postscript: It turns out the remains did, in fact, belong to the missing person.

On the other hand, this case from Butler County, Missouri is an easy call. A sheriff’s deputy on patrol spotted an abandoned car in a ditch. As he approached the vehicle “he immediately detected a foul odor.” On inspecting the car, he found the decomposed body of a 48-year-old murder victim in the trunk. That’s good police work but it doesn’t qualify as ISDP.

Here’s a final one for the Rules Committee: “Boyfriend suspected in death of woman found in trunk of her father’s car” The details, provided by the New York Post, are ambiguous:
The vehicle was found at the corner of Murray Street and 22nd Street around 8:30 p.m., emanating a foul odor, cops said.
Did a citizen report a foul smell coming from the car (ISDP)? Or did police find the car because they were looking for a make, model and license plate (not ISDP)? Committee decision: withhold judgment pending clarification.