Officials in California last month found the body of a man they said had likely died years ago sitting in a chair inside his home. Now the coroner suspects the man’s son had been collecting his deceased dad’s retirement money as his father decomposed.
“He was basically mummified,” Kevin Raggio, the Calaveras County coroner, told USA TODAY.
Raggio identified the man as Vada Clinton Freer, 91. He was found at his home in a remote town near California’s Sierra Nevada mountains by Calaveras County Sheriff deputies when they tried to conduct a next-of-kin notification last month.
Freer’s son, Randall Freer, 63, had died suddenly that day in a neighboring county, Lt. Greg Stark, a Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times.
A deputy was dispatched to Vada’s home in rural Wallace, population less than 1,000, the morning of July 13, when he saw a body sitting in a chair through the window, Stark told the L.A. Times. Detectives were called in.
Vada was discovered unclothed. The cupboard shelves were bare and rodent droppings covered every inch of the home’s floor, according to Raggio.
“Between rodents and decomposition, all his organs were gone,” Raggio said. “His skin turned into mummified leather.”
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An autopsy uncovered no signs of foul play, but could not determine the cause or manner of death, Raggio said. Natural causes were probable, and the time of death was likely more than a year ago, Raggio said.
After conducting his own investigation, Raggio said he believed Randall, who lived at the same address in a different building, had been living off of his deceased dad’s retirement income for years.
Raggio went to the local bank named on statements recovered from Vada’s home. Bankers checked Vada’s account history.
“The last check that we found he signed was in 2016,” Raggio said. But Randall had been listed on the account and had been signing checks himself in recent years.
“So he was living off the proceeds of his dad’s retirement,” Raggio said.
It’s unclear if any fraudulently obtained money could be recovered since Vada’s death certificate lists the day he was discovered as his death date, according to Raggio.
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USA TODAY’s calls to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s department were not returned Friday.
Stark told the Times that an investigation by the sheriff’s department was underway, and would not comment on the coroner’s findings. Raggio told USA TODAY he shared the information he learned from the bank with the department.
Vada’s remains were released to relatives, Raggio said.