Did This Hoarder Lose Her Dead Son in Her Home?

When a woman went to her sister-in-law's Brooklyn house, she found more than she bargained for: her nephew's corpse

Rita Wolfensohn's Midwood, Brooklyn home where she allegedly lived with her son's corpse for two decades. Credit: Google Maps

No one has seen Louis Wolfensohn for at least 20 years. Not even his mother, Rita, who for the past two decades believed her son moved out of their Brooklyn home. Yet on September 15th, the New York Post reported that her son had possibly never left at all, becoming one of the many things she collected over the years. Earlier this month, a relative visited the home to fetch personal belongings of Ms. Wolfensohn while she was in the hospital, and found the place in absolute disarray, smelling of decaying food and littered with trash. What this unwitting relative – Josette Buchman, Rita's sister-in-law – did not expect to find was the skeleton of her nephew Louis, intact, wearing jeans, socks and a shirt, lying on a mattress in the second-floor bedroom. While the police are reluctant to confirm that the body is definitely his, they have stated that the man died of natural causes.

Though the situation has an eerie Alfred-Hitchcock-meets-Colyer-Brothers feel to it, there are few details known. According to the Post's investigation, Ms. Wolfensohn had two sons – Michael, who died in 2003 at the age of 38, and Louis, a former taxi driver who would now be 49. When initial reports of the body's discovery were released, the public wondered how a dead body could go unnoticed for 20 years. An investigator assigned to the case noted it was like a "reverse Psycho scene" – but unlike Norman Bates, who very knowingly hid his mother's corpse in their shared residence long after her death, police allege it's possible Ms. Wolfensohn was entirely unaware of the dead body in her home.

As the investigation continued, police revealed that Ms. Wolfensohn is legally blind and a known hoarder. Given the chaos found throughout the home – which was littered with garbage and cobwebs though lacking any distinguishable odor of decaying flesh – police now believe it's possible Ms. Wolfensohn had no knowledge her son died in the home. The elderly woman was out of touch with her brother, Joseph Buchman, until recently, not long before his wife discovered the body believed to be their nephew.

However, this is not the first case of an elderly person living with a corpse. In 2014, Timothy Brown was found to be living with the corpse of his father Kenneth, who died in a fall after a fire in the home in Stafford, England. Authorities found Kenneth propped in a chair, dressed in pajamas, four months after his death. That same year, in Buenos Aires, Claudio Aferi, 58, was found dead in his home and next to him was the body of his mother, Margarita, who died 10 years earlier. The body was not concealed and appeared to be an active part of Claudio's routine.

It remains murky whether the details of the Louis Wolfensohn's death – and Rita Wolfensohn's knowledge of the event – will ever be clear, as the home is now vacant and she's assumed to be in an assisted living home on Long Island, after her brother was seen leaving the facility last weekend.