Woman’s death unnoticed for 6 years

Police said in the 6 years since the woman's death, it was never broken into. (MCT photo)

Police tape surrounds the house on Savanna Drive, March 6, 2014, where a woman in her 40's was found dead in the back seat of her SUV in her garage in Pontiac, Mich., where she may have been there as long as six years. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

It’s always sad when someone dies. It’s even sadder when no one notices.

In Michigan, the death of a woman living alone in Pontiac, a suburb of Detroit, went unnoticed for six years, according to a report from a local TV station.

The woman, who is not being identified by authorities pending notification of family that did not notice she died around 2008, was found in the back seat of a Jeep in the garage.

Was it suicide? Keys were in the ignition, but police say the ignition was in the off position.

Was she trying to stay warm in her vehicle? She was wearing a heavy coat and could have been using the Jeep’s heater and was unaware of carbon monoxide levels.

An autopsy is being performed to determine the 49-year-old woman’s cause of death.

The body, which showed no signs of trauma, was “mummified,” according to unnamed sources.

How can this happen?

The Detroit Free Press identifies the victim as Pia Farrenkopf and said she had $54,000 in the bank when she died. Her bills were set to be paid automatically and that kept creditors away for a while.

When the yard became overgrown, a neighbor maintained it for years.

“She didn’t really talk to anyone. I’m sure she was a nice lady. She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” said one neighbor.

Her body was discovered only after the home was foreclosed on and a worker sent to make repairs peered through a hole in the roof and saw the body Wednesday.

A sister, contacted by the TV station, said the family was originally from Boston, but most everyone was dead. She said Pia worked for a bank and frequently was in Germany for extended periods.

Pia’s mother married a Georgia man about three years ago, but died from cancer about 18 months ago, according to the TV station article.

The stepfather, Edward Carroll, said he tried to contact Pia and tell her of the marriage and her mother’s death.

Pia never responded to a wedding invitation.

After the mother’s death, Carroll said Pia’s phone would ring but no one ever answered. Letters were returned.

“I tried to find her through the Internet and everything and I never could find her,” said Carroll. “Her mother hadn’t heard from her for years and years. A lot of [the mother's] children, in fact, her oldest child, she hadn’t seen her probably in 30 years.”

Time to turn off the autopay and visit friends and family.

68 comments Add your comment

Kelly

March 7th, 2014
3:51 pm

How insensitive at the end of your article to state, “Time to turn off the autopay and visit friends and family.”

Brian

March 7th, 2014
3:55 pm

I thought the last line was appropriate, even it was editorial. Sad story.

Anton Chigurh

March 7th, 2014
4:00 pm

This is a blog, not a news story, so George’s comments are part of the format. And it this case – as in most – he was spot on.

Hidden Agenda

March 7th, 2014
4:01 pm

The family dynamic certainly isn’t what it used to be. Plenty of people simply don’t interact with the outside world for their own person reasons. Its certainly a tragedy, but not that surprising. My wife and I have always made a point of meeting our neighbors when we move in and being cordial and helpful (especially to the elderly ones with health and other issues) just to be good neighbors. When we don’t see them for a while we make a point of at least trying to make contact just to make sure nothing has happened. I am also not a fan of the nosy neighbor however and fully appreciate that some folks want to simply be left alone.

vee

March 7th, 2014
4:02 pm

I can’t imagine not having SOME contact from family members. I used to complain about a nosy neighbor who was always checking up on me if my car didn’t come and go as usual. (Like if I stayed home from work or didn’t go to church.) Once she even called my mother. I came to the realization then that I wouldn’t like dead in the floor for days as long as my neighbor was around.

Susan

March 7th, 2014
4:02 pm

As true as it may be, that last line was a bit callous. I think they could have worded it better, and still gotten the point across. God bless this lady and her family.

TheBetterHalf

March 7th, 2014
4:04 pm

This is beyond sad to me….especially since she has a sister who apparently was reachable since they found her for the news story.

Richard

March 7th, 2014
4:09 pm

Something is wrong. Someone was emptying that mailbox. If there was a foreclosure, mail was coming to the house…where did it go? And why did someone take the mail and not say anything? I think there was some sort of crime going on. Identity theft after the women died? Murder? Who knows, but it is definitely not a simple case.

Matt

March 7th, 2014
4:13 pm

Sad stuff. And I agree with @Kelly — not an appropriate article or way to say what you did. Seems that you could’ve softened that — everyone’s a critic — i know, I hate that about our society. But then again, George — that seems like it could’ve been better placed.

Susan

March 7th, 2014
4:16 pm

Where does it say that someone was removing mail from her mailbox? If she paid everything automatically by computer, she wouldn’t be receiving any bills. And it sounds like she was estranged from her family and friends. The only thing that has ME confused is the fact that the key was in the ignition, but it was turned OFF. If she died of carbon monoxide poisoning, who turned the car off afterward? Did someone make it look like suicide, then when it was over, turned the car off so as not to garner attention? Things that make me go “hmmmmm”.

Dee

March 7th, 2014
4:18 pm

I think the last line was spot on. I tend to be a loner and as I have gotten older, I make a point to keep in touch with friends and family and participate in church and other group activities so that if I don’t show up for the family Christmas party, someone will come looking for me. In these days, it is very easy to become isolated, especially if you don’t go to the bank or send mail. I feel for this lady, but I’ve got to wonder what sort of person she was if nobody missed her – not even her mother.

The Geezer

March 7th, 2014
4:25 pm

Bills or not, I get enough junk mail, advertising fliers and the such in one week to fill up the mailbox. Also unsubscribed papers in my driveway. Somebody had to be cleaning that out.

Nataki

March 7th, 2014
4:32 pm

Reminds me of Joyce Vincent….dead for 3 years, in her own home….in London…so very, very sad.

Bumper

March 7th, 2014
4:58 pm

This is the second time I’ve heard of this happening. A while back there was a similar case of a man (in NYC I believe) who was dead in his apartment a couple of years before anyone noticed, and that one also involved his bills being paid automatically.

Lots of people live alone in isolation, I’m surprised this doesn’t occur more often.

LydiasDad

March 7th, 2014
5:01 pm

Very weird story. How can no one notice she’s missing for 6 years? What sorry family members she must have had.

Jamie

March 7th, 2014
5:04 pm

There has to be more to this story, too many unanswered questions.

Kevin

March 7th, 2014
5:06 pm

If she had a P.O. box instead of a mailbox, that would explain one question.

Kool Aid Party Meber

March 7th, 2014
5:12 pm

This is why the government needs to take care of us.

Not an English major

March 7th, 2014
5:13 pm

George, your posts are usually able to be read without wondering about the poor use of sentence structure, punctuation, etc. So, it is very out of the ordinary to note the mistake in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, which shows you are human, like the rest of us.

I have wondered about the decline in the quality of the writing at the AJC. Is it because of the general decline in communication standards attributable to recent generations’ affinity for texting, or is it because the AJC can no longer afford to use proofreaders to check for typos?

Dman

March 7th, 2014
5:20 pm

Wow, 6 years. How did no one notice. I don’t buy it. Someone had to know. Sad story…

George Mathis

March 7th, 2014
5:21 pm

Not an English Major – We all make mistakes. This was written late on a Friday, when I tend to falter.

George Mathis

March 7th, 2014
5:26 pm

The fourth graph has been amended! I tweaked it to add a new theory I devised … maybe she was trying to stay warm?

jerry gardner

March 7th, 2014
5:27 pm

Lay off George. He gives much thought to his one-liners ! He’s funny !

robert hand

March 7th, 2014
5:32 pm

neighbor who maintained yard should be first suspect.

Birdrow

March 7th, 2014
6:00 pm

Not an English Major should change their name to Not A Person With a Life.

SayWhat?

March 7th, 2014
6:15 pm

To Birdrow: That should be “its” name…. or his/her. Verb agreement.

katzi williams

March 7th, 2014
6:23 pm

I didn’t realize GM wrote this this until the end or I would not have bothered. He may see his form of “journalism” as edgy or entertaining, I think he is a pompous jerk with no feeling for others.

LadyGAGADawg

March 7th, 2014
6:27 pm

Reminds me of the older couple in FL a few years ago who owned a two story mansion, that had a built-in elevator. They both died in it after it got stuck between the two floors. Apparently it was not equipped with a phone and they neither had a cellphone. It was a week before they were found on the floor of the elevator facing and clutching each other. Their sorry son in NY had failed to call and check on them for a week, knowing they were older and in bad health. He probably ended up with a huge inheritance, and I hope a conscience that never let him rest. I really, like others, cannot fathom this story today. I live alone with a bad heart, but if my son or daughter (in another town) don’t call they will text every day or so. Also, if my sister (another town too) can’t get an answer on my phone, she calls either my son or daughter to tell them to tell me to call her. She has said if she does not hear from me within 2-3 hrs. she will call the police, AND SHE WILL !

Brace4impactz

March 7th, 2014
7:02 pm

@LadyGaGaDawg…I remember reading about the old couple in the elevator…it haunted me for a while afterwards. It’s a blessing to have attentive family members like yours (and mine).

nelson

March 7th, 2014
7:07 pm

If she had $54,000 in her account when she died, and her bills were paid automatically, how did the property go into foreclosure? We don’t have the complete story, yet.

TruthSpoken

March 7th, 2014
7:42 pm

Also, she was only 49, so was she retired? Didn’t co-workers notice she was missing? Didn’t her lawn person noticed she hadn’t called or gave new instructions regarding the lawn? I mean, now can someone be not noticed for six whole years? Didn’t she have one girlfriend, cousin, or something?

Poor lady!

Jack ®

March 7th, 2014
7:51 pm

Something just ain’t right about this story.

Jill

March 7th, 2014
8:22 pm

@Richard and Susan, The mail thing is odd. Even if she was auto-paying her bills, she must have been receiving junk/coupon mailings. For years – that must have built up. Was someone clearing that stuff out?

Not an English major

March 7th, 2014
8:41 pm

Birdrow, I actually have a pretty good life, and I was also was complimenting George on his writing. But, I was bemoaning the fact that writing skills in general seem to have declined, or at least proofreading skills have.

Not an English major

March 7th, 2014
8:44 pm

And, yes, it is obvious that I did not proofread the previous post.

liars expose

March 7th, 2014
10:00 pm

You’re going to tell me she had a coat on and if my calculations are correct, there were six summers. I’m sure the temp reached 90 deg at least a couple of times during those six summers; yet people were cutting her grass and nobody smelled nothing? There’s a vent above the garage door but I guess it too wasn’t working for six years. Yeah, something doesn’t smell right about this story.

Mary Morris Billings

March 8th, 2014
6:06 am

AUTO BILL PAY is never a good option. Her resources were drained dry for services she did not use because she was dead. Probably no money left to even bury her. Now her creditors wont return 6 years of payments to the family because they will argue “well had she been alive, she would have used the service”. Had she not paid bills automatically, she would have been discovered much sooner and the lions share of the money in her bank account would still be there to bury her and then donate to an organization she supported. Hey everybody….discontinue automatic bill pay. It may be convenient but it is also a way to ROB YOU and DRAIN YOU DRY!!!!!!

Nancy

March 8th, 2014
7:15 am

This is exactly why bloggers are NOT (nor should they be considered) journalists. Paragraph No. 3: It states that the woman is not being identified pending notification of the family. Paragraph No. 9: It then identifies the victim. Add that to it the horribly insensitive, stupid way the article ends: Shame on you, AJ/C for listing this as a “news” story.

Kelly Brown

March 8th, 2014
7:41 am

“Was it suicide? Keys were in the ignition, but police say the ignition was in the off position.

Was she trying to stay warm in her vehicle? She was wearing a heavy coat and could have been using the Jeep’s heater and was unaware of carbon monoxide levels.”

If the key was off, how could she be using the Jeep’s heater?

“After the mother’s death, Carroll said Pia’s phone would ring but no one ever answered. Letters were returned.”

How would Carroll know Pia’s phone would ring? He was not there to hear it.

Kevin

March 8th, 2014
8:32 am

Wow! What a douche thing to say at the end. Hope nothing like this ever happens to one of your family members.

Danielle

March 8th, 2014
8:56 am

I think there are some missing pieces – the lack of mail accumulation and the key’s position in the ignition. That being said, this story still says a lot about the society we live in. The loss of family and community is sad. Although kudos to the neighbor who kept up the yard (though I hope he isn’t involved). I say this as I recount being a younger girl and going with my grandmother to visit a co-worker who had fallen on a Friday and wasn’t found until Monday because her co-workers noticed that she hadn’t come in and couldn’t reach her. Being a young teen I could have certainly thought of better things than to sit in the hospital visiting an elderly lady that I didn’t know, but I remember finding it difficult to hold back my tears as I wondered about her children’s absence – she had two adult, professional children. I also recognize that people don’t always come from “good” families (abuse, neglect, etc.) and would rather be cut off – as could be the case in this story and the one I recount from my early teen years.

Then there is the other side. Some people get older and isolate. My grandfather pretty much uninvited me and my family to visit him for Thanksgiving. This trip had been planned months in advance. We talk on the phone; he laughs at all of my stories recounting the antics of his great grandchildren and loves their pics. When I pressed for a reason he wouldn’t give one. I was hurt, so I asked other family members for clarity and he gives them the same treatment. So I’m left to hope that I will get to see him alive before he dies and we (the family) just make sure we keep in touch with him so that nothing like this happens.

Billy

March 8th, 2014
9:05 am

Whether the ending line was inappropriate or not, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Go back to the library where it’s safe. If you don’t like that kind of humor, you may have more in common with the deceased lady than you realize…
Per the article, it appears the woman kept to herself, which is the primary reason she wasn’t discovered. It wasn’t suicide unless she or someone else turned off the switch than had otherwise been on long enough to kill her; hopefully, forensics will find this out. Odd that she was in the back seat. The article doesn’t mention a suicide note being found.
A truly sad story for most, but some people want their privacy, and have a right to it. Not to offend all the chickens on here, but if you detest this woman’s fate, set up your affairs such that if you are hurt, injured, or worse, it will be quickly noticed and discovered; you might want to go so far as to have a beeper on your chest for 911 purposes…

George Mathis

March 8th, 2014
9:06 am

Kelly – I think it is possible she was using the Jeep heater to warm the car and then turned off the engine. But if she did that multiple times during a night to stay warm, CO may have built up in the closed garage and eventually overwhelmed her. Just a theory. The autopsy results should be released soon.

joyce

March 8th, 2014
9:10 am

If she had $54,000 in the bank she didnt need the cars heater to stay warm.Its Sad when after 6 monthes an no contact her family didnt try to locate her.

mamaj

March 8th, 2014
9:48 am

There is absolutely no way that someone can be dead in their house for 6 years and no one notices. No way. There is simply more to this story, and yes, there is criminal activity involved. I don’t have a very close family either, but I there are so many things in life that happen on a regular basis that no one can be dead that long without SOMEONE noticing, eve with automatic bill paying. NO WAY!

Baltisraul....

March 8th, 2014
10:20 am

Not a family unit I am used to, but a very sad story about a lonely lady. Six years and nobody noticed! wow

Diman Nyembwe

March 8th, 2014
10:24 am

Let us take just a minute to say hello to our family, friends and people around us. dare to be social and care about somebody. take time from work, business and be social while helping somebody

DawgNole

March 8th, 2014
11:44 am

Birdrow
March 7th, 2014
6:00 pm
Not an English Major should change their name to Not A Person With a Life.

SayWhat?
March 7th, 2014
6:15 pm
To Birdrow: That should be “its” name…. or his/her. Verb agreement.
______________________

To SayWhat?: You are correct–except that it has nothing to do with verb agreement.

DawgNole

March 8th, 2014
11:49 am

Mary Morris Billings
March 8th, 2014
6:06 am
AUTO BILL PAY is never a good option . . . It may be convenient but it is also a way to ROB YOU and DRAIN YOU DRY!!!!!!
_________________________-

Co-sign.

WL

March 8th, 2014
12:14 pm

What about her employer? I know if I didn’t show up even if you weren’t friendly, someone would be concerned. Something is VERY fishy.