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For more than a year, this woman lived in a $1.2 million home with her sister’s corpse

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 16/01/2017 Lindsey Bever
The house at 122 Clinton Road in Brookline, Mass. © Brookline Assessor’s Office The house at 122 Clinton Road in Brookline, Mass. Neighbours had expressed concerns about two sisters growing older together in a million-dollar home in an affluent town not far from Boston.

Down a stately tree-lined street in Brookline, Mass., 74-year-old Lynda Waldman and her 67-year-old sister, Hope Wheaton, who were identified by local media, lived in a beautiful but disheveled 1920s home worth $1.2 million (C$1.58M), according to online property records.

But about a year and a half ago, the house grew quiet and “unkept,” according to a later report.

Neighbours who knew them had been asking Waldman why they hadn’t been seeing her sister, according to the Boston Globe.

“We always asked where she was,” Harriet Allen, a neighbour and longtime friend, told the newspaper. “She would ignore it.”

Since the summer, Brookline police officers had conducted three well-being checks after people reported concerns about the house on Clinton Road as well as the two sisters who lived there. Officers had spoken with Waldman more than once, but she refused their help, Lt. Philip Harrington, with the Brookline Police Department, told The Washington Post.

Then last month, as temperatures hovered around freezing, a relative went by the home to help with the heat — and made a shocking discovery.

Inside the 2 ½ story home, Wheaton’s decaying corpse lay on the kitchen floor, Norfolk district attorney spokesman David Traub told The Washington Post. Traub said there was “substantial decomposition” of the body and “substantial clutter” in the home.

Authorities said they believe Wheaton died in the summer of 2015; her sister, it seems, had been living in the home with Wheaton’s body since.

The prosecutor said there were no signs of trauma or foul play, but the medical examiner has not yet determined the cause and manner of death.

On June 8, Brookline police received a call from a person who was concerned about the condition of the home, saying that “they may have abandoned the place,” according to police records.

On July 13, records show that someone from Springwell Elder Services asked officers to check on Wheaton because the senior services agency had already made two visits of its own and no one had answered the door.

Officers responded but noted that the “patient has refused any help,” according to police records.

More than a week later, a National Grid contractor who was conducting safety checks in the area called police and reported that the house “appears to be unkept and neighbours haven’t seen the owners in several weeks,” according to the records.

At that time, a resident at the house was checked by the Brookline firefighters and emergency medical services but refused further help.

It wasn’t until December 14 that anyone figured out why, according to reports.

According to Brookline TAB newspaper, which first reported the story:

A relative told police when she came over to help put the trash out one December morning, her cousin mentioned the heat wasn’t working and was concerned the pipes might burst.

The woman who lived in the home asked her cousin if she might give her a ride to another family member’s home. The relative told her she’d come in and help her pack and asked if her sister — who lived there as well — would join. The woman told her they’d see when she went inside.

When she went in, for the first time in a year or two, she discovered the body under the kitchen table.

The newspaper reported that the relative took Waldman, the older sister, to another family member’s home.

The woman living there later told police her sister had been ill before and would sometimes fall and not be able to get up, so she’d give her water and fudgsicles until she was better. This time her sister didn’t get better, and she told police she didn’t know what to do.

Police arrived to find the remains of the woman’s sister under the table and described the home, which was assessed at more than $1.2 million this year, as very cluttered throughout and noted it didn’t appear to have running water, which is a public safety issue.

The Brookline Health Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Brookline, where John F. Kennedy was born, has a population of 58,000 people, more than 76 percent of whom are white, according to the census. More than 80 percent of those who live there are college-educated, and the median household income is $95,518 (C$125,635), according to data.

Neither of the sisters who lived at the Clinton Road home were married, according to reports.

“They were recluses,” Allen, the neighbour, told the Boston Globe.

Still, Allen said, Wheaton, the woman who died, was “bright and alert and fun, and we enjoyed each other.” Waldman, she said, is “a very bright woman, very well-read, very up on the politics of the day, to this day.”

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