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‘They said they panicked’: Sisters confess to burying their 94-year-old father, police say

The Washington Post The Washington Post 22/10/2016 Peter Holley
Police say Sarah and Susan Kort confessed to burying their father in the back yard of his home in Eustas, Fla. © Courtesy of WFTV Police say Sarah and Susan Kort confessed to burying their father in the back yard of his home in Eustas, Fla.

Nine years had passed since Melvin Kort’s brother had heard from him.

He called his nieces — Sarah, 55, and Susan, 60 — last July to ask about their 94-year-old father’s whereabouts. The Kort sisters told their uncle, who lives out of state, that their dad had left his home in Eustas, Fla., and moved up north to live with relatives, police said.

Their uncle didn’t believe them and later told police he sensed that the Kort women were giving him “the runaround.”

Deputies stopped by the home, and the women repeated the same story. So the authorities left when nothing at the residence seemed suspicious, Sgt. Fred Jones of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.

That changed last month when the sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip that the women had a body buried on the property.

Deputies returned to the residence — this time with a specially-trained cadaver dog — and discovered a man’s body buried in the back yard.

“It was pretty obvious,” Jones said. “They didn’t do a very good job covering their tracks, and the body was probably only three to four feet below the surface. You could tell that, even years later, there was something different about that area.”

The sisters told police that they buried their father after finding him dead of a stroke or heart attack, Jones said.

“They said they panicked when they noticed he was dead,” Jones added. “At that point, they decided to bury him in his back yard.”

ABC affiliate WFTV reported that Melvin Kort may have had a history of mental health issues.

Despite what they said was an admission from the daughters, police are still trying to confirm that the body belonged to Kort.

Jones said investigators think the body was buried four or five years ago and they have found no sign of blunt force trauma in the remains, which were in an advanced stage of decomposition.

“We haven’t been able to identify him yet,” Jones said. “We have done a familial DNA test that we sent to a lab to verify that the body is Melvin Kort, the homeowner.”

Jones said federal officials are also investigating the incident because Kort continued to receive Social Security checks after his apparent death.

Details from the case have been sent to the Lake County State Attorney’s Office, according to Division Supervisor Walter Forgie. Forgie said his office is reviewing the case and conducting an additional investigation that should conclude in the next three weeks.

“Should there be no evidence of wrongdoing other than improper disposal of a body, that is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine,” he said.

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