An elderly veteran who was found dead in his Lafayette, Indiana home last month died more than nine months ago, according to the coroner.
The body of Gerald Francis Gavan Jr., 88, was found on May 3 near the front door of his home.
Neighbors told police they saw Gavan’s wife living in the home and acting as if nothing had happened to her husband.
Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt says a forensic entomologist will testify in court that Gavan’s death date was at least July 15, 2013.
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Gavan’s wife Ila Solomon says the coroner is wrong and that her husband did not die until April 28. Solomon claims dehumidifiers, rodents and flies accelerated the decomposition, making the forensic etymologist mistake five days of decomposition for 9 months.
"I think that there is enough proof and evidence that that's not true," Solomon told the Indianapolis Star.
Gavan's next-door neighbor Tyler Imel, who moved in last August, told WUSA 9 he was shocked to learn that Gavan had been dead in the home the entire time.
"It's really disturbing," he said. "The fact that we've been living here the whole time and talking to her."
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Imel said he spent time with Solomon, who he believed was Gavan’s live-in caretaker. His roommate, Joe Childs, described her as friendly and said she came and went from the home frequently.
"If I lived with a dead body in my house, I couldn't compose myself the way that she did every day," Childs said.
Solomon would not say why she did not report Gavan’s death, citing instructions from law enforcement.
"I would love to answer," she said. "I would love to tell you. I really, really would."
She has been trying to donate Gavan's remains to a “body ranch” in Texas where vultures are studied as they eat human remains. She claims letting birds feast on remains is an Indian tradition Gavan was interested in, so that in death he would have "a bird's-eye view.”
The coroner is waiting for a toxicology report before she issues an official report on the cause and manner of death.