Woman found dead in debris-filled home

April 2, 2011 9:12:25 AM PDT
An 80-year-old Chicago woman whose body was found in a home filled with trash may have been dead for several months.

Police found the badly decomposed body of Cecylia Opilka buried beneath mountains of debris in her Rogers Park townhouse in the 2000 block of West Morse.

Officials describe Opilka's townhouse as being covered floor to ceiling with garbage. Police had been called to the home after neighbors who hadn't seen Opilka for weeks requested a well-being check.

"It's just very, very weird that nobody would have maybe smelled or knew of what was going on," said Greg Lavris, Rogers Park resident.

Opilka shared the home with her son Ronald who police describe as developmentally disabled. Neighbors say the son had told them his mother was in the hospital.

Police who found Opilka say it appears to be another case of hoarding, the third such case in the Chicago area in the past year and a half.

Last May, Jesse and Thelma Gaston were rescued from piles of debris after being buried alive for days in their South Side home. And last July, 79-year-old Marie Davis was found dead in her garbage-filled Skokie home.

Alexian Brothers psychologist Patrick McGrath has been featured on the TLC reality show "Hoarding: Buried Alive."

"This is not laziness, which is another thing that lots of people think. It is a significant disorder," McGrath said.

Many hoarders attempt to get help.

The company Chicago Crime Scene Cleanup primarily cleans homes affected by crime. But on a monthly basis, they will be hired by hoarders.

"We have found animal infestations in the homes, raccoons, pigeons, mice, cats," said Michael Frakes, Chicago Crime Scene Cleanup.

The Cook County Medical Examiner says Opilka died of heart disease.

Police say no charges are expected in connection with her death, though her son was arrested for misdemeanor drug possession after he was found with marijuana.

Neighbors say if they hadn't called for that well-being check, they don't know when she might have been discovered.