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Lehigh Acres, Florida, US, 2002. A 63-year-old woman lived with her 34-year-old son in a residential neighborhood in southwest Florida. The home had been built in the late 1980s by the woman’s husband, who had died in 1994. The son experienced a chronic, progressively debilitating neurologic disorder that had led to him being barely able to ambulate. The family did not socialize with neighbors and had no known relatives. They were German nationals who were part-time residents of Florida and spent their remaining time in Aachen, Germany, where the son had attended college.

A caretaker who did yard work for the family would watch over the property when they were in Germany. In 1998, approximately 1 year before they were last seen alive, they told the caretaker that they would care of the yard themselves. Although they preferred to be alone, the caretaker continued to stop in occasionally, but his last visit was in 1999.

Fig.1 The exterior of the neglected residence.

During the next few years, the former caretaker noticed that the yard was overgrown but had assumed that the family was in Germany. Although neighbors wondered why they no longer saw the mother walking the family German shepherd dog, no one investigated the situation. Several other people noticed problems at the residence, but because the household bills were electronically paid from a trust fund, no one went looking for the mother and son. County code enforcement officers had gone to the house in 2001 because of complaints about the overgrown lawn, but when the family did not respond, the county had the lawn mowed.

Code enforcement officers subsequently issued 3 citations because of the residence’s ill repair but never attempted to enter the residence. In 2001, county workers fenced in the backyard pool and posted signs indicating that the grass should be mowed. County officials issued the family bills for the yard and pool work but never received payment. That same year, a sheriff’s deputy went to the property because of reports of a foul odor but did not go inside.

Fig.2 The mother’s partially skeletonized body on the kitchen floor.

The former caretaker of the property was searching the county property tax records in November of 2002 for delinquent properties that might come up for sale. He noticed that taxes on the German family’s home and an adjacent lot that they owned had not been paid since November 1998. Because he was already planning a trip to Switzerland, he decided to visit the family in Aachen to discuss the property but found that they were not there. He learned that German authorities had broken into the condo in 2000 and found paperwork that indicated that they might have moved to Florida permanently. The caretaker returned to Florida and called a locksmith to open the door of the secured residence. Inside, he discovered the mummified and partially skeletonized bodies of the mother, son, and a large dog and called the local sheriff’s office.

It was immediately apparent that the residence was experiencing neglect and appeared uninhabited. The grass in the yard had grown to approximately 2 ft in height, and mail was lying in the driveway by the garage door. There was no sign of attempts at forced entry, and the interior of the residence showed no evidence of a struggle or ransacking. The partially skeletonized remains of the woman were found adherent to the carpet covering the kitchen floor of the 2-bedroom house. She was clad in a nightgown and surrounded by pupa cases. Her eyeglasses were adjacent to her head, and insulin syringes and a blood glucose monitor were in cases on the kitchen table, although no medications were found in the residence.

Fig.3 The mother’s partially skeletonized body on the kitchen floor.

The bodies of the male decedent and the dog were in a bedroom and appeared to have been posed. The man was prone on a twin bed with his head on the pillow and his body covered with a comforter. He was clad only in a pair of shorts. A partially consumed bottle of water was beside the bed. The remains of the dog were on a second twin bed that was adjacent to the one on which the man was found. The residence appeared well-kept except for the accumulation of dust, although there were few personal items other than clothing in the house. A single light was on, and the air conditioning was running. The remaining light bulbs had burned out. Investigators found cheese, blueberries, and milk that had expired in 1999 in the refrigerator.

A coffee cup containing dried white residue was also discovered in the kitchen. Two glass dog bowls on the kitchen floor appeared empty except for a few pupa cases and scant desiccated material. There were no dog feces in the residence. A calendar in the house was marked until February of 1999, 3 years 9 months before the discovery of the bodies. The passports of the mother and son as well as information about the dog were found on the kitchen counter. The passports indicated that they had entered the country in December 1998 and that their stay was until June 1999. No drugs or alcohol were found at the scene. Subsequent inspection of the residence revealed no potential sources of carbon monoxide, suffocating gases, or other toxic fumes.

Fig.4 Body of the son in an adjacent bedroom.

Handwritten notes bearing the mother’s handwriting in German were also found. The writings appeared to have been displayed. Subsequent translation of the notes revealed religious passages copied from a book. In addition, 1 note stated in part that ‘‘neither one of my actions, nor one of my thoughts should deny the fact that I have already received fulfillment of my wish, and that this fulfillment is now completely visible.’’ Another note stated, ‘‘God’s perfection now finds expression through my body. The conception of total health, endless wealth, happiness and success now fulfills my subconscious.’’

The bodies of the 2 decedents and the canine were transported to the District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office and were subsequently also examined at the CA Pound Human Identification Laboratory in Gainesville, Fla, for forensic anthropological analysis. The bodies were mummified, with dark brown desiccated parchment-like skin, and bore numerous pupa cases as well as occasional dead beetles. Total body radiographs revealed no fractures or projectiles. The head and extremities of the female were predominantly skeletonized and the viscera were absent.

Fig.5 Body of the dog on a bed adjacent to the bed on which the body of the son was found.

The male body was mummified and contained remnants of severely decomposed viscera. Neither body showed evidence of preexisting natural disease processes or antemortem trauma that could have contributed to death. In addition, there was no evidence of postmortem canine predation. The mother and son were identified by comparison of the postmortem dentition with premortem dental records obtained through Interpol. The body of the dog was partially mummified, although the head and upper torso were very well preserved. The dog was also radiographed and autopsied and showed no discernible trauma.

Fig.6 A coffee cup containing scant dried residue.

The items submitted to the toxicology laboratory included soft tissue from the male and female, liver from the male, and muscle from the dog. As part of routine toxicology analysis, comprehensive drug screens were performed on each of the tissues submitted along with carbon monoxide, cyanide, and thiocyanate. All tissue specimens screened positive for benzodiazepines. Diazepam was identified in the coffee cup and the dog bowl containing the dried food remnants.

The reported case is highly unusual in that the remains went undetected for almost 4 years, despite their location in the family home in a residential neighborhood that had been visited by county officials on multiple occasions. The mother and son had established a pattern of social isolation, undoubtedly contributed to by a language barrier and cultural differences as well as by the decedents’ lack of relatives and the neurologic impairment of the son.

Fig.7 Two dishes, apparently the dog’s food and water bowls, on the kitchen floor containing desiccated material.

The note (translation below):

Weder eine meiner Handlangen, noch einer meiner gedanken soll dis Tatsache verneinan, daß ich im geiste bereits die Erfullung meines Wunsches empfangen habe und claß sie nunmehr vollkommen sichtbar sich offenbart. Im geist in der seele, im gemüt und im Körper will ich meinem Wunsche treu sein. Ich habemein Eigenfum im geiste erblickt. Ich habe es empfangen als vollkommene Idee in meiner Seele und habe meinem Wunsche wahrheitsgetreue Form verliehen. Nunmehr werde ich meinen vollendeten Wunsch eu sichtbarer Offenbarung erschaffen. Ich danke Dir, mein Vater, daß ich nun Liebe, Weisheit und Erkenntnis, Leben, gesundheit Kraft und ewige Jugend, Harmonie, gluck und reichen Wohlstand besitze, und daß ich auch die Methode erkenne, die mich aus der universellen Substanz dasjenige erscheffen lehrt, was jeden berechtigten Wunsch befriedigen soll, Sagte ich euch nicht, daß derjenige, der glauben besitzt, die glorie.


Neither one of my actions nor one of my thoughts should deny the fact that in spirit I have already received the fulfillment of my wish and that it is now fully visibly revealed. In spirit, in soul, in spirit and in body I want to be true to my wish. I have seen my own property in spirit. I have received it as a perfect idea in my soul and have given real form to my wish. Now I will create my consummate desire for visible revelation. I thank you, my father, that I now have love, wisdom and knowledge, life, health, strength and eternal youth, harmony, happiness and rich prosperity, and that I also recognize the method that teaches me to create something out of the universal substance, which should gratify every legitimate desire, I did not tell you that he who has faith glorified.

Fig.8 A note in the mother’s handwriting apparently displayed on the kitchen counter.

News report

2 Mummified Bodies Found in Florida Home – Nov 22, 2002

The mummified bodies of a German woman and her son who apparently died three years ago were found in their Florida home, along with the remains of their dead dog, police said today.

A calendar and paperwork found in the home in tiny Lehigh Acres, along with food in the refrigerator with 1999 expiration dates, led investigators to believe that the two may have died as long ago as March 1999.

The U.S. acquaintances of the pair may have thought that they moved back to Germany, while their German relatives may have thought they were staying in the United States, police said in attempting to explain the strange case.

Investigators said they could not release the names of the victims, saying only that they were a 63-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man. But the man who found the bodies, family friend Heinz Rubin, told a newspaper that they were Liz Fuchs and her son Josef — frequent visitors to Florida from Aachen, Germany.

“The female was on the dining room floor. The male was on his bed with the dog next to him,” said Maj. Richard Chard, commander of the major crimes unit of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “We found paperwork as late as March 10, 1999, that would indicate that was the last time they were alive.”

Rubin discovered the bodies on Wednesday when he went to check on them after learning that the local government was about to sell their house for nonpayment of taxes. Lehigh Acres is about 110 miles northwest of Miami, near the western Florida city of Fort Myers.

Rubin told the News-Press of Fort Myers that he last saw the pair alive in January 1999.

“I’d like to know . . . if it was a murder-suicide,” he said.

Detectives said the house was dusty but well-kept. The lights were on and the air conditioning was working, apparently because the Fuchs’s electricity bills were paid automatically.

Detectives described the bodies as “mummified and skeletonized,” a condition that would have occurred naturally in the cool, dry, air-conditioned home.

Investigators found cheese and milk with 1999 expiration dates in the refrigerator. A calendar was marked until Feb. 28, 1999.

Tests were being done to determine the cause of death. “There were no outward signs of any gross foul play like knife or gunshot wounds,” Chard said.

Two notes found in the home, written in German, were translated but did not provide any clues to the deaths, police said.

“We’re going to see if we can get some insights into what was going on in their lives,” Chard said. “The people we’ve talked to in Germany indicated they thought they had decided to stay in Florida. Their neighbors here may have thought they moved back to Germany.”

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