A Wisconsin woman has been accused of keeping her 89-year-old mother’s body in a plastic storage bin in the basement of the family’s home for months, all while she lived on the woman’s social security checks.
Paula Ann Bergold, 59, is now facing charges of hiding a corpse, failure to report death, and obstructing an officer after authorities noticed a strong stench and discovered the body of 89-year-old Ruby Bergold in her Peshtigo home earlier this month, local station WITI-TV reports.
Marinette County deputies were called to the home in mid-September to check on Ruby after a neighbor reported that she hadn’t seen the elderly woman for months and that her daughter was “being evasive” about where the woman might be, according to local station WLUC.
When they arrived, they reportedly encountered a strange sight: a note had been taped to the front door.
“Ruby has gone out of town to visit some friends of ours. Paula,” the note read.
Deputies also noticed an “odor of decay” while standing at the door. Mothballs covered the entry of the doorways and filled the back of a car parked in the driveway, according to a criminal complaint by WBAY.
Shortly after deputies arrived, Paula arrived at the scene and told the deputies that her mother was out of town, but agreed to let them search the home, the complaint said.
Once inside, deputies found no sign of Ruby, but did notice a chair covered in Borax. They also allegedly discovered boxes of ammonia and bleach inside the home.
Authorities claimed Paula eventually admitted that her mother was dead and was being stored in a plastic tub in the basement, saying she didn’t kill her mother but discovered her dead one day in her chair and “couldn’t bring herself” to contact authorities.
Instead, she allegedly placed her mother in the storage tub after the body began to smell and continued to cash Ruby’s social security checks for months. She claimed financial worries were part of the reason she had not decided not to report the death, WITI-TV reports.
Paula was arrested and had her first court appearance Monday in a video feed from jail. Her next scheduled appearance is Oct. 7.
Ruby’s body was later positively identified through the identification number on her pacemaker, WBAY reports.
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