HARTFORD, Conn. – A Connecticut woman described by police as an apparent hoarder was crushed to death when a floor piled with clutter collapsed into her basement, state medical officials said Tuesday.
The state chief medical examiner’s office said 66-year-old Beverly Mitchell died of accidental and traumatic asphyxia.
Mitchell’s body was found Saturday as crews used a backhoe to remove debris from her home in Cheshire. She may have been dead for more than a week, police said.
Town officials, meanwhile, are determining whether the home is still structurally sound.
Cheshire Fire Chief Jack Casner said no decision had been made on whether to tear down the house. He said building official deemed the house “unfit for human occupancy,” and have boarded it up with plywood.
Authorities have said they believe the first floor collapsed under the weight of all the clutter, which was stacked as high as the ceiling in some places.
“There is several feet of clutter throughout the entire house, anywhere from 4 to 8 feet high,” Casner said.
Casner said there were holes in the roof that may have leaked water onto the floor and weakened it.
“I was surprised with what I witnessed,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that someone was in those conditions.”
A postal carrier called police Thursday to ask for a welfare check because Mitchell’s mail had been piling up for at least a week, authorities said. Police did go into the home Thursday, but said they didn’t find anyone and thought Mitchell wasn’t home.
Authorities didn’t even notice that the floor had collapsed Thursday because all they saw was ceiling-high clutter along the walls and waist-high clutter in other areas, police Sgt. Kevin O’Donnell said.
It wasn’t until Friday that officials discovered the first floor had caved in. After making sure the building was safe to enter, officials cut a hole in the side of the house and began removing debris with a backhoe. Authorities found Mitchell’s body on Saturday afternoon.
Casner said officials still haven’t been able to find Mitchell’s relatives and are taking out ads in local newspapers looking for them.
O’Donnell said officers checked on Mitchell’s welfare many times over the past several years and offered her help from social service providers, but she refused every time. He said local officials had no idea how cluttered the home was until they entered it on Thursday.