US hoarder died under crush of debris

2014-06-18 06:37
The home of Beverly Mitchell in Cheshire, Conn. (Wes Duplantier, AP, New Haven Register)

The home of Beverly Mitchell in Cheshire, Conn. (Wes Duplantier, AP, New Haven Register)

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Hartford - A US woman described by police as an apparent hoarder was crushed to death when a floor piled with clutter collapsed into her basement, medical officials said on Tuesday.

The Connecticut state chief medical examiner's office said 66-year-old Beverly Mitchell died of accidental and traumatic asphyxia.

Mitchell's body was found on Saturday as crews were using a backhoe to remove debris from her home. She may have been dead for more than a week, police said.

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. Cheshire Fire Chief Jack Casner said there were holes in the roof that may have leaked water onto the floor and made it weaker.

A postal carrier called police on 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 on Thursday, but said they didn't find anyone and thought Mitchell wasn't home.

Authorities didn't even notice that the floor had collapsed on 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.

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