Video report by Mike Krafcik, Fox CT
Text by Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant
CHESHIRE — A woman found dead in her debris-filled home Saturday likely died when part of the first floor collapsed into the basement, police said Sunday.
Beverly Mitchell, 66, whom police described as a recluse, was pronounced dead at her Winslow Road home. The death appears to be accidental, Sgt. Kevin O’Donnell said.
On Thursday, a mail carrier alerted police that mail had been piling up at Mitchell’s home for about a week. Officers searched through waist-high debris on the first floor of the single family home, but could not find Mitchell.
Floors in the home felt soft, O’Donnell said, and based on the conditions, police determined that a continued search without proper equipment was unsafe. The local fire, health and building departments were notified, along with the state Department of Emergency Management.
After the structure was secured, Mitchell’s body was found Saturday morning in the basement under a pile of debris from the collapse of the floor in the room above. The preliminary investigation showed the collapse likely occurred a week to 1 1/2 weeks earlier, O’Donnell said.
“When that floor gave way and fell on her, was she alive and suffering? You know what I mean? You wonder, did she go right away? You hope that she did,” said neighbor Mary Stopkoski.
Stopkoski says Mitchell was rarely spotted leaving her home and stopped driving several years ago.
Mitchell’s two cars remain in her driveway, both almost entirely filled with packages, mail and other paper items.
“I knew she was a hoarder, but I thought her hoarding was contained to the two cars in the driveway. It never occurred to me it would be inside the house,” Stopkoski said.
Ryan Edwards said he often visits friends in the neighborhood.
“I couldn’t believe the car getting worse and worse,” Edwards said.
He says the condition of the home hasn’t changed much over the years.
“It’s a wealthy town. Everyone takes care of everything. We all look out for each other. You just couldn’t believe this would happen here,” Edwards said
Over the years Stopkoski’s family would offer to mow Mitchell’s lawn and shovel the driveway.
“She was very independent and would say, ‘No thank you. I’ll take care of it myself.’ So you kind of knew she didn’t want to be bothered with people,” Stopkoski said.
The state Medical Examiner’s Office has not officially identified Mitchell and could not release information on the cause and manner of her death, an official said Sunday. Cheshire detectives are investigating the incident. Town officials will decide whether the house should be demolished, O’Donnell said.