The mummified bodies of a German woman and her son who apparently died three years ago were found in their Florida home, along with the remains of their dead dog, police said today.
A calendar and paperwork found in the home in tiny Lehigh Acres, along with food in the refrigerator with 1999 expiration dates, led investigators to believe that the two may have died as long ago as March 1999.
The U.S. acquaintances of the pair may have thought that they moved back to Germany, while their German relatives may have thought they were staying in the United States, police said in attempting to explain the strange case.
Investigators said they could not release the names of the victims, saying only that they were a 63-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man. But the man who found the bodies, family friend Heinz Rubin, told a newspaper that they were Liz Fuchs and her son Josef -- frequent visitors to Florida from Aachen, Germany.
"The female was on the dining room floor. The male was on his bed with the dog next to him," said Maj. Richard Chard, commander of the major crimes unit of the Lee County Sheriff's Office. "We found paperwork as late as March 10, 1999, that would indicate that was the last time they were alive."
Rubin discovered the bodies on Wednesday when he went to check on them after learning that the local government was about to sell their house for nonpayment of taxes. Lehigh Acres is about 110 miles northwest of Miami, near the western Florida city of Fort Myers.
Rubin told the News-Press of Fort Myers that he last saw the pair alive in January 1999.
"I'd like to know . . . if it was a murder-suicide," he said.
Detectives said the house was dusty but well-kept. The lights were on and the air conditioning was working, apparently because the Fuchs's electricity bills were paid automatically.
Detectives described the bodies as "mummified and skeletonized," a condition that would have occurred naturally in the cool, dry, air-conditioned home.
Investigators found cheese and milk with 1999 expiration dates in the refrigerator. A calendar was marked until Feb. 28, 1999.
Tests were being done to determine the cause of death. "There were no outward signs of any gross foul play like knife or gunshot wounds," Chard said.
Two notes found in the home, written in German, were translated but did not provide any clues to the deaths, police said.
"We're going to see if we can get some insights into what was going on in their lives," Chard said. "The people we've talked to in Germany indicated they thought they had decided to stay in Florida. Their neighbors here may have thought they moved back to Germany."