The deaths of a former police officer and his mother whose skeletal remains were found in their Northeast Philadelphia home were determined yesterday to be the result of a murder-suicide.

The Medical Examiner's Office said that Assunta Connor was killed by a bullet to the head and that John David Connor shot himself in the head.

Their remains were found Thursday in their ranch home on the 11000 block of Bustleton Avenue in Somerton, the woman in her bed, her son sitting in a chair, a revolver still clutched in his right hand.

No one has said when they died, but neighbors reported not seeing the pair - who were known to be reclusive - for more than a year.

Assunta Connor, an Italian war bride who reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease, would have been 84. John Connor, whose father died when he was young and who retired from the force in the 1990s, would have been 56.

Police would not discuss the contents of a note they found in the house, but the murder-suicide fit the pattern of a male caregiver, often isolated and depressed, killing a loved one before taking his own life.

During the year the pair were out of view, the city mowed the lawn at the home at least twice, but officials said there was no way for the workers to legally check inside.

Police said their records also showed that the only call to the house was Thursday, when Water Department workers, responding to a neighbor's complaint, entered the house to shut off a leak that had flooded the house and was sending water outside.

City Councilman Brian O'Neill, in whose district the Connors lived, said the city should see the case as an opportunity to reevaluate its protocols on when and how city workers might check on residents.

"A lot of this has to do with mental health," he said, adding that checking on the Connors any earlier might not have changed the outcome.

"But there might be a lot of other cases where [checking on residents] would matter," he said.

The Connors apparently had no family in the area except for each other, and funeral arrangements were uncertain.

Contact staff writer Joseph Gambardello at 215-854-2153 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.