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Miami Springs senior ‘not seen’ for months found dead inside her home, police say

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 5/20/2022 Theo Karantsalis, Miami Herald

Firefighters kicked down the door of a home in Miami Springs during a welfare check on April 1, after spotting through a window the decomposed body of a senior citizen, Miami Springs police said.

A few minutes later, Carolyn Bernat, 72, was pronounced dead, a dog was hauled away by Miami-Dade Animal Control, and her back door was left unlocked, the police report said.

Next door neighbor Codina Otmara, 57, told officers that she had not seen Bernat, who lived in the Springs’ Bird Section neighborhood, for several months and her lawn man had not been paid “for the last three months,” according to the police report. “No next of kin was able to be contacted,” the report said.

Miami-Dade County homicide detectives “advised the cause of death will be ruled natural causes,” police said.

However, the medical examiner has not yet determined an official cause of death.

“The record that you have requested is currently pending and will not be disclosed until a manner and cause of death has been determined,” Miami Dade Medical Examiner’s records coordinator Veronica Melton-Lamar told the Herald Wednesday.

It is unclear how long Bernat’s decomposed body remained inside her home of 34 years along the 500 block of Nightingale Avenue, or how her dog may have survived for an extended period without food.


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A copy of a Miami-Dade County Fire 911 information sheet, obtained by the Herald through a public records request, says firefighters responded to a “sick or injured person” and that there was “forced entry.” The incident was closed 17 minutes after arrival, and there is no mention of a decomposed body.

A public records request seeking more information on the case is pending with the county’s police, fire, and animal services departments.

Miami Springs is a three-square-mile city, population 13,859, that sits just north of Miami International Airport, with a large elderly population. About 2,882 senior citizens reside in the small city, or 21 percent of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 population estimates.

While some police departments in Florida offer daily welfare checks or phone calls for seniors living alone, including the cities of Venice and North Port, Miami Springs does not.

“MSPD does not have a program in place to check on seniors that live alone,” Miami Springs Police Chief Armando Guzman said. “We have no way of knowing how many seniors live alone in the city.”

If you are concerned about a neighbor, friend, or family member’s well-being, call your local police department and ask for a welfare check. In Miami Springs, call (305) 888-9711.

In case of an emergency, call 911.

©2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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