(Reuters) - An Indiana woman is under investigation after her husband’s corpse was left in their home for more than nine months and fed on by birds, authorities said on Thursday.
Gerald Gavan Jr., 89, whose body was found on May 3 on the living room floor of his house in Lafayette, Indiana, had been dead since at least last July 15, Tippecanoe County coroner Donna Avolt said.
Investigators are trying to determine if Gavan’s wife, Ila Solomon, had a financial motive for not reporting the veteran’s death, Lafayette Police Sergeant Brian Phillips said. There are also laws that require prompt reporting of deaths, he said.
Avolt said the man’s body had shriveled to skeleton form and was becoming “partly mummified.” Gavan was identified because he had a steel plate in his ankle from an old injury, she said.
Solomon told Avolt her husband had been dead only a few days, the coroner said.
The cause of his death is unknown, but results of toxicology tests that are due back late in June might determine if there was any foreign substance in his body, she said.
Solomon also told Avolt she sometimes left the doors of the house open so birds could come in and feed on the corpse in a Tibetan tradition, at his request, Avolt said. Tibetan Buddhists call the practice a “sky burial.”
Avolt said the decaying body would have emitted a strong odor in the house. But Solomon also owned a house next door that she had purchased in February 2013, according to property records provided by a Tippecanoe County official.
A phone number listed for the Gavan home in Lafayette was not in service on Thursday.
Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney