Police Find Dead Body In Hoarder's Home

| by Jonathan Constante
The Hazel Park home police found Donald Smith's body in.The Hazel Park home police found Donald Smith's body in.

A Detroit man's decomposing body was found by police during a welfare check.

When police visited Katherine Lessmann, 61, in her Hazel Park residence on July 18, they found her alive but covered in feces and maggots, WXYZ reported.

The home was filled with chest-high garbage bags, and neighbors told the news station they noticed a strange odor coming from the house.

Neighbors originally thought the odor was due to cats. But on July 22, officers obtained a search warrant to search the home. That’s when they found the decomposing body of 78-year-old Donald Smith, the house's owner.

Officials wore HAZMAT suits to remove Smith’s body from the home. Animal control also found one dead cat, and eight other cats inside the home.

“He was stiff as a board,” neighbor Becky Mills, 30, told The Detroit News.

Mills said officials took pictures of Smith’s body before loading it into a van.

“Then I woke up this morning and they had Elite Trauma Clean-Up, a couple code enforcement cars, a couple police cars,” Mills added. “[The woman] had said there was a man in the house and claimed he was watching TV and didn’t want to be disturbed.

“Turns out he was decomposing.”

The medical examiner’s office said Smith, a Vietnam veteran, may have died in December. Neighbors said Smith hadn't been seen since last year.

Matthew Urben, another neighbor, said Smith had said he had cancer. Urben added that Lessmann would not allow him to see Smith.

Officials are waiting for autopsy results to determine the official cause of death, but police suspect Smith died of natural causes.

This isn’t the first time Lessmann has lived with a dead body. In 2005, Smith found Lessmann living with her mother’s dead body down the street, WXYZ reported. He then took Lessmann into his home so she wouldn’t be homeless.

Sources: WXYZ, The Detroit News / Photo credit: WXYZ

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