CHICAGO - Fire crews investigating a mysterious stench found an elderly couple buried alive under mounds of garbage in their Chicago home, authorities said Tuesday.
The couple, in their seventies, were found Monday night, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said. The fire department team forced in the door of the South Side home and found an overpowering smell, piles of food waste and trash.
According to reports, Thelma Gaston and her husband, Jesse, were admitted to a local hospital and were in intensive care Tuesday.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Thelma Gaston's brother lives in the Seattle area.
Police had initially been called to the two-flat apartment building by neighbors who had not seen the couple in some time and wondered about their welfare. Police called in the fire department because of the stench and the team that entered wore hazardous materials suits.
An 83-year-old neighbor, Hattie Fields, said the couple had lived in the building for years. Police declined to identify the couple.
"I've been here since 1965 and I can't remember if they were here then or not," she said.
She said that she used to see the woman sitting on the front porch as she walked by but no longer could because the hedges had not been trimmed for years and had grown level with the second floor of the building, obscuring the view.
She said she was fairly certain that no one else lived in the building, although there were unoccupied apartments on the first floor and in the basement. She said signs of neglect were obvious.
"The back yard is also full of debris," she said.
She said she used to see the man going out and getting in his truck to go to work in the morning, although not lately.