PETALUMA, Calif. (KRON) — A Petaluma woman never left her house for more than two years, not even after her mother died inside their Windsor Drive home and the corpse remained in the living room, police told KRON4 Thursday.
“Based on statements made, detectives believe she has not left the house, other than to go to the mailbox, since the beginning of March of 2020. All her living essentials were ordered online and having them delivered to the home. This included daily meal deliveries,” Petaluma Police Department Lt. Jeremy Walsh said.
Petaluma police officers found the woman’s mother dead inside a living room Tuesday morning and launched a “suspicious death” investigation. “Given the condition of the decedent being … in the advanced stages of decomposition, it appeared she had been deceased for over a year,” PPD wrote.
PPD officers were first alerted to check on the home’s residents by a concerned neighbor who noticed 20-30 packages stacked up on the porch. Neighbors said no one answered the door when they knocked.
“Upon arrival, officers also made numerous attempts to contact the resident which were unsuccessful. Given their observations, coupled with the information obtained by the reporting party, officers were concerned for the welfare of the resident and made the decision to make entry into the home,” PPD wrote.
Officers found the daughter in a bedroom and the corpse in the living room. The woman told police that her mother died of natural causes in April of 2021.
Walsh said detectives are still trying to determine if the daughter committed a crime, such negligence as a sole care provider. Police will retrace the daughter’s “actions or inactions which could have contributed to her deterioration and ultimate death,” Walsh said.
The daughter’s self-isolation began in March of 2020, the same month when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Sonoma County officials to order residents to “stay at home.”
The Sonoma County Health Officer issued a public health order directing residents to shelter in place starting on March 18, 2020. At the time, there were four active cases of locally-transmitted COVID in Sonoma County. “All individuals currently living within the county are ordered to shelter at their homes,” county health officials wrote.
Sonoma County’s health officer, Dr. Sundari Mase, said in March of 2020, “We urge our residents not to panic, however, please take this order seriously, as COVID-19 is a real threat to our community.”
Investigators did not say if the pandemic was a motivating factor behind why the daughter never left home for two and a half years.
Police have not released the mother and daughter’s identities. A City Code Enforcement Officer red-tagged the home, deeming it uninhabitable, on Tuesday. The daughter was transported to a hospital for medical evaluation and treatment.
Detectives will review the mother’s medical history, try to find any surviving friends or relatives for interviews, and figure out why exactly her death never reported, Walsh said.
Detectives will also look into financial records to see if any benefits entitled to the mother were being collected and inappropriately used before or after her death.
A man who lives next door told KRON4 that he and his family never saw the mother or daughter since he moved into the neighborhood three years ago. The neighbor said delivery packages frequently piled up by the front door. Another neighbor was in disbelief that police were not called to conduct a welfare check sooner.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office will perform an autopsy for the mother to determine her official cause of death.
Currently, there are no outstanding suspects or safety concerns in the neighborhood. Anyone who has further information relevant to this investigation is encouraged to email Petaluma Police Department Detective Daniel Boyd at email@example.com or call him at 707-778-4334.