By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press
A Louisiana woman apparently kept her father's severed body in an ice chest at her apartment for at least two years as she collected his Social Security check, police said.
At some point, she cut off his hands so that identifying him would be difficult, authorities said, but she never dumped his body as she had planned. The woman and her roommate recently went to police to tell their story after deputies came to the apartment when they wouldn't let maintenance workers inside the home.
"We all go through life and think some things are stranger than fiction," St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain Jr. said Wednesday. "And this fits that description."
The woman has not been identified but she told police she is the man's daughter. Police think the 83-year-old man, who also has not been identified, died of natural causes. The coroner is working to verify that part of the women's story.
Instead of reporting the death, the woman left his body on a bed at the apartment in Slidell, a suburb about 30 miles east of New Orleans. As it began to decompose, the woman told police she amputated the hands and placed them in a box in her freezer. She moved the rest of the body to a 160-quart ice chest, where much of it began to turn into liquid.
The man was apparently bed-ridden and rarely seen by neighbors, Strain said, making it easy to conceal his death.
Deputies were asked to check on the apartment after workers trying to fix the air conditioning were rebuffed, Strain said.
"We believe that was probably the first step for making the people living in the apartment concerned about the body they had in the ice chest," Strain said.
The apartment conditions were deplorable, with stifling heat and "beyond what human beings should live in," the sheriff said.
The Social Security check was believed to be the woman's only income, Strain said. She told police she intended to eventually dump the body.
"Time just got away from them and a couple of years went by," Strain said.
No charges have been filed. The woman was taken for a mental evaluation and her roommate checked out and released.
Investigators are waiting on a coroner's report before deciding what to do next.
"Then we'll see if this is a horrible crime or is it a devastating tragedy where that woman felt that was the only course available," Strain said.