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The deep freeze or a highwall?

February 20, 2011
KAY?SEDGMER Lifestyles Editor

I TOOK a personal interest in a story that recently came out of Carlsbad, N.M.

The story gained national attention when a woman died and her survivors decided to complete the final "clean out" of her home and made a gruesome discovery in her freezer.

I'm sure most of you reading this have already guessed that a body was found in the freezer. However, I would assume you will be surprised to realize there is a local connection!

My brother lives in Carlsbad. His wife operates a home for juveniles there. The deceased woman had been employed at the facility at one time. (My brother and sister-in-law provide the local connection by being acquainted with the deceased woman. Sorry, that's as far as it goes but the story is one that may become more familiar as the general population ages.)

The woman's daughter came to town and proceeded to clean the house as she finalized her mother's estate, completing all the unpleasant necessary duties that are required of survivors.

After sorting through cupboards, dressers, boxes and closets, the daughter and her husband soon began the process of cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer.

Much to their surprise, the freezer was being held shut through the assistance of a pad lock. So, the son-in-law busted the lock.

He and his wife began cleaning out the chest-type freezer only to discover a foot sticking up near one frozen package of food. The couple immediately loaded the freezer into their pickup truck and headed to the Carlsbad Police Department. An investigation immediately began.

The frozen body stuffed in the freezer is thought to be that of the dead woman's husband who has been missing for over 13 years.

And, according to what investigators currently believe, there was no foul play involved in his death.

In numerous published reports, Capt. Jeff Zuniga of the Eddy County Sheriff's Department, which took over the investigation for the Carlsbad Police Department after it was determined the freezer wasn't originally located within the city corporation limits, the thought is that the man died of natural causes and he was put into the freezer so the woman could continue to receive his retirement check each month.

The man was in his early 70s when he was reported missing. His wife, who just recently died, was only 63.

She had apparently penned a letter explaining why she had put her husband on ice.

The document reportedly indicted that she was extremely remorseful, but just couldn't financially go on without her late husband's pension check.

Since the discovery, the body has been transported to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for autopsy.

"Well, I don't think the woman killed him," my brother said in a recent phone conversation. "But not one person ever suspected that the woman had stuffed the guy into her freezer. Everyone just thought he had taken off."

He said the deceased woman has been described by neighbors and friends as just an average run-of-the-mill citizen.

"It's just a shame that she felt like she couldn't make it without his pension check," my sibling said. "Times are tough for everyone but most people don't go quite that far!"

Thinking about it, I realize how difficult this woman's day-to-day struggles in life must have been. Each time she went to that freezer ... there was her husband buried under the hamburger and frozen pizzas. Each time someone mentioned his name, she had to feign concern of not knowing what had happened to him.

That would be a tough act to carry out for over 13 years.

Yet, what is actually the sad part of this story is that she felt compelled to live a lie in order to survive.

I don't know anything of the deceased woman's financial status. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me.

What does matter is that due to different and various reasons, our elderly citizens face financial issues each day ... be it due to the death of a spouse, increasing health care costs or lack of retirement income, etc.

And, as I race towards joining the ranks of "senior citizenship," my financial future doesn't look too bright either. I think most of those in my generation feel the same with Social Security teetering on the edge and the recent decline in everyone's financial status.

What's the answer? I sure don't know.

However, I am pretty darn sure that I'm not going to end up stuffed in a freezer.

My kids have already told me they plan to go green when I croak. They will just toss my body into a refrigerator box and then toss the whole package over a highwall into a pond, thus providing food for the fishes!

Sedgmer may be reached at ksedgmer@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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