WILMINGTON, N.C. - Relatives of an elderly North Carolina woman kept her corpse in their home for months, until authorities discovered the woman's body this week, and a prosecutor said yesterday that one of the family members will face a criminal charge.
"There is no question it was known to the family and should have been communicated to law enforcement," said New Hanover County District Attorney Benjamin R. David.
David said a member of the family would be charged with failure to report a death, which is a low-level felony in North Carolina.
The sheriff's department Web site later listed the arrest of Amy Blanche Stewart, a 47-year-old resident of the same home in this coastal North Carolina city. It was not immediately clear her relationship to the dead woman and the Web site did not specify a charge against her.
The allegations come a day after police said a 9-1-1 caller reported that Blanche Matilda Roth was unconscious and not breathing. They found Roth's body in her bed.
Police said Roth likely died in May, before her 88th birthday in September. New Hanover County Deputy Charles Smith said caretakers had been going in and out of the house on a quiet cul-de-sac on a daily basis. He would not specify if the caretakers were family members but said they were not nurses.
Neighbors said Roth's family had been living in the house with her and continued to go on as normal after Roth's reported death. A woman who answered the door at the home yesterday morning refused to comment.
David also said investigators were looking into Roth's financial records.
Martin Pedersen, a neighbor, said he had no idea Roth had died.
Pedersen, 55, said four other family members, a married couple and two sons, lived in the house and that a younger son went to school every day. He said Stewart's husband was in a wheelchair, and said Stewart came over to his house a couple of months ago to borrow a set of channel lock pliers because the house's water had been shut off.
Pedersen said he used to see the elderly woman walking to the mailbox with another family member holding her arm. "They'd be laughing and everything else."
He couldn't recall when he last saw her.