By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A Connecticut woman described by police as an apparent hoarder was crushed to death when a floor piled with clutter collapsed into her basement, state medical officials said Tuesday.
The state chief medical examiner’s office said 66-year-old Beverly Mitchell died of accidental and traumatic asphyxia.
Mitchell’s body was found Saturday as crews were using a backhoe to remove debris from her home in Cheshire. She may have been dead for more than a week, police said.
Town officials, meanwhile, are determining whether the home is still structurally sound.
Cheshire Building Official Bert Schiaroli told the New Haven Register that he was assessing the structural integrity of the 114-year-old home and whether it needs to be torn down as a safety precaution.
“The safety of the public is paramount,” Schiaroli said Monday. “After I inspect it, I’ll consult with the town manager to determine what the course of action should be.”
Schiaroli on Tuesday referred questions to Fire Chief Jack Casner. A message seeking comment was left for Casner.
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.
A postal carrier called police 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 Thursday, but said they didn’t find anyone and thought Mitchell wasn’t home.
Authorities didn’t even notice that the floor had collapsed 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.
Police still are looking for relatives of Mitchell.
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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