PONTIAC, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- A contractor working on a foreclosed home in Pontiac discovered a "mummified" body — believed to be that of the homeowner who had not been seen by neighbors for years — in the attached garage.
The body of the woman, who was in her 40s, was discovered Wednesday in the backseat of a Jeep, parked in the garage of a house on Savanna Drive, in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in northwest Pontiac.
Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said investigators believe that the woman has been dead since at least 2008. That's the same year the license plate on the Jeep expired.
"She had $54,000 in her account and her bills were being deducted," McCabe said. "Eventually the money ran out and her house went into foreclosure."
The undersheriff said neighbors told deputies they thought the woman had moved out of the country because they had not seen her for three or more years.
An autopsy showed there was no trauma to the body and a cause of death is pending, McCabe said.
Dr. Bernardino Pacris, the Oakland County deputy medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, said the skin was intact on the body, though the internal organs had gone through natural decomposition. He said he found no evidence of internal or external injuries.
Pacris said in the mummification process the skin will turn into a parchment-like consistency with leathery texture. Climate, weather and humidity play a role, he said.
He said finding a body in that condition is unusual, but "once in a while we see this."
Pacris said the body was lying on the back seat and clothed in a heavy jacket and jeans, leading him to believe the woman may have died when the weather was cold. The key was in the Jeep's ignition, but in the off position, Pacris said.
He said the immediate concern is confirming the woman's identification and learning more about her, including her medical history and social habits, to determine the cause of death, which occurred several years ago.
Neighbor Darryl Tillery said the mail never piled up at the house and the lawn was kept cut.
"There was no indication there was a body in there, at all," he told a reporter.
McCabe said neighbors had complained that there was a hole in the roof of the home and that raccoons were getting in. The company that was managing the house for the mortgage holder sent a repair man to fix the roof.
"He went into the garage and saw the mummified remains in the backseat and called 911," McCabe said.
McCabe said they believe they have identified some relatives on the East Coast, but he withheld the woman's name until they could be notified.
McCabe said the electricity was still on in the house but moisture had caused black mold throughout the home. Detectives planned to wear firefighter protective suits to inspect the rest of the home, McCabe said.
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