Boy finds ‘mummified’ corpse while exploring abandoned house


A boy found the mummified body of a man hanging in a closet in this home in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/The Dayton Daily News, Marshall Gorby)

Forget monsters under the bed. There are mummies in the closet.

The modest homes on South Harbine Avenue in Dayton, Ohio, stand close together — close enough to chat through an open kitchen window or while sipping iced tea on the porch next door. No. 217, a sky-blue house with yellow trim, might be charming but for the tangled overgrowth behind the chainlink fence guarding its borders.

“The front door was papered with citations for the overgrown yard, and no one came and went from the address. The home was unfurnished,” CNN reported.

On Sunday afternoon, Michelle McGrath’s 12-year-old son decided to explore the mysterious house neighbors thought was abandoned.

He opened a rusty gate, pushed aside weeds and, once inside, found a closet. He opened the door. Inside he found the mummified remains of a man suspended from the neck by a belt.

McGrath told a local news station her son thought it was a dummy or a mannequin at first. In fact, the mummified corpse is believed to be the remains of 53–year-old Edward Brunton.

He had been hanging in the closet for five years.

The boy’s mother went to investigate. “When I crossed the threshold of the room is when I smelled it,” she told CNN. She called the police.

“Because of the location where he was found, it was relatively protected, sunlight-protected, temperature-protected and low humidity,” coroner Kent Harshbarger told CNN affiliate WDTN, adding that the discovery was “very unique.”

The closet door kept animals away from the corpse and the coffin-like conditions allowed it to mummify rather than decompose rapidly.

The death was an apparent suicide. According to the coroner’s office, Brunton likely killed himself not long after he bought the house in 2009 — before he had time to get to know his neighbors.

“I didn’t realize there was anybody in the house,” said Alberta Ballard, an elderly neighbor who has lived across the street for 40 years. “There was no activity, nobody coming and going. It looked just like it does now. Yes, I was really shocked.” But the house across the street hadn’t escaped Ballard’s attention entirely. She had called the city to complain about the yard, which it mowed from time to time.

Brunton was estranged from friends and family, Ken Betz, director of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, told CNN.

Documents bearing Brunton’s name were found inside the house, but officials are waiting for dental records to confirm his identity, according to local news reports.

McGrath said it is a sad commentary on the community that someone could be dead so long without anyone ever noticing. “I think it’s disturbing that the neighbors didn’t smell it, they didn’t call, that people aren’t more involved in their neighborhood,” she said.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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