The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

He pushed an elevator’s alarm button but no one came, officials say. Weeks later, his body was found.

Nearly a month after he went missing, Isaak Komisarchik, 82, was found dead in the elevator car of a Denver apartment complex Aug. 2. (Video: KMGH)

On the afternoon of July 5, Isaak Komisarchik, 82, was seen in the parking lot of his Denver apartment building, heading to the leasing office, a relative says. He walked to his mailbox and stopped by the office to pick up a few things, his daughter said.

Then, his daughter told a local television station, “he just disappeared.”

Days went by with no one seeing or hearing from the elderly man, who had begun showing signs of dementia and would become “disoriented at times,” his daughter told KUSA.

His disappearance perplexed authorities and relatives, who said Komisarchik was physically incapable of walking very far from home.

Posters and fliers were distributed throughout the southeast Denver area — pictures of the gray-haired, brown-eyed man’s face could be seen plastered on light posts and on news sites. Firefighters scoured the quiet neighborhood, searching through five nearby ponds for the beloved father and grandfather.

“We are really worried and really, really anxious to get him back,” his daughter, Yelena told KUSA after he had been missing for three days. “He should be safe, so where is he?” his granddaughter, Elina said.

Weeks went by, and authorities couldn’t find him. Then, several residents of a nearby apartment building — less than a mile from the apartment building where Komisarchik was last seen — began complaining to management about a stench coming from the building’s parking garage.

On Aug. 2, nearly a month after he went missing, maintenance workers reported to fire authorities a discovery: a decomposed body in an elevator car in the parking garage. The body was soon identified as Komisarchik’s.

And this week, authorities began to unravel what may have happened in Komisarchik’s final moments.

At some point on or before July 6, Komisarchik stepped inside the parking garage elevator. For reasons that remain unclear, he struggled to get out.

So in an attempt to seek help, Komisarchik pushed the elevator’s emergency button — twice over the course of eight minutes, a Denver Fire Department spokesman told the Denver Post. But no one responded.

Electronic records show that the elevator’s emergency alarm was pressed at 9:09 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. on July 6, the day after Komisarchik was last spotted, according to KUSA. Pushing this emergency button should trigger an alert to an elevator monitoring group or the fire department. But during the time Komisarchik was in the elevator, the fire department received no emergency calls from that car, the Denver Post reported.

“Something is not right,” Capt. Greg Pixley, a Denver Fire Department spokesman, told the Denver Post.

An elderly couple mysteriously vanished. Eight days later, their children’s worst fears came true.

Denver Police told a local ABC affiliate that the elevator management company received an alert from the elevator and notified the apartment building management. Apartment workers checked two of the elevators, the ABC affiliate reported, but not a third elevator, where Komisarchik’s body was eventually found.

That specific elevator was not in use in recent weeks because it was in an area of the parking garage that was under renovation, according to a statement from Greystar Management Services, which manages the apartment complex, Woodstream Village.

“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Komisarchik’s family and friends,” said the statement released to local news outlets by spokeswoman Lindsay Andrews.

Now police and fire officials are working to figure out exactly what happened in the elevator car, and why Komisarchik’s calls for help went seemingly unanswered.

Although some tenants told local media the elevator was not working, a spokesman for Denver police said it was indeed operable. It was last inspected in December and deemed to be in working condition, fire officials also said.

“How he got in there and when he got in there is obviously what we’re trying to figure out,” said John White, the police spokesman told the Denver Post.

City codes require that all elevator cars have an emergency alert system including an alarm switch and a phone or intercom. Emergency calls from an elevator car must be able to connect either with on-site security, with an elevator monitoring company or directly with the Denver Fire Department, the Denver Post reported. Code also mandates that elevator operators must monitor emergency alerts at all times.

The discovery of Komisarchik’s body, and the revelations about his calls for help, have left his relatives with intense grief and many still unanswered questions.

A number of family members reached by The Washington Post Thursday night declined to give interviews. One relative, Komisarchik’s cousin’s wife, Svetlana Komisarchik, said in a written message, “it’s hard for me to talk about him.”

“He had a great sense of humor,” she told The Washington Post, adding that she was very close with him. He liked to tell jokes and write poems, she said, and he loved his family deeply, “especially his grandchildren,” she said.

Other relatives, speaking to KUSA while Isaak Komisarchik was still missing, also spoke fondly of his witty personality and his poems, brilliantly written in Russian.

“There was no event or celebration without him scribbling any lines,” his daughter, identified only as Yelena, told KUSA.

Family pictures showed him playing chess and pool with his family, and enjoying time outside.

“He was always the one sharing slightly inappropriate jokes with us, a little bit of bathroom humor,” his granddaughter, Elina, told KUSA.

“We are still trying to come to terms with his horrible death,” Svetlana Komisarchik said.

ClarificationAt the time this story was initially reported, Denver news outlets were reporting that Isaak Komisarchik was last seen at a nursing care facility. A relative has since said that he was last seen at his apartment building. This story has been updated.

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