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How could this happen and no one know?

March 10, 2014 - Diane Speer
How can a middle aged woman die alone in her house and nobody know about it for at least six years?

I've been haunted by that question ever since reading a story in last week's Detroit Free Press. The mummified body of 49-year-old Pia Davida Ferrenkopf of Pontiac was discovered March 5 in the backseat of her Jeep Liberty – but only after a repairman, sent by the bank foreclosing on her home, made the gruesome discovery.

Up until that point, no one missed her. No family, no friends, no neighbors.

For six years, she stayed entombed in her garage while neighbors around went on about their daily lives. They apparently assumed she either was away on business trips or had moved to Germany. One of the neighbors occasionally mowed her lawn during the summer, and every now and then, the lights would turn on making it appear as if someone was home. All of the woman's bills were paid by automatic withdrawal from an account that once held $54,000. It was only after the money ran out that foreclosure proceedings were started in 2013.

Circumstances suggest suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, but police may rule out suicide because investigators allegedly found the key to her vehicle in the ignition but in the off position and there still was gas in the tank. They also allegedly did not find a suicide note.

Whatever the cause of death ultimately turns out to be, I am flabbergasted that this could happen on a residential street probably not unlike the one on which I live. How very sad that someone could have so few connections with her fellow human beings that not a single person wondered enough about her in all that time. No one deserves to end their life in such a lonely and ignoble way.

Too busy best describes most of our lives these days, mine included. This story definitely gave me pause because while I basically know who all of my neighbors are, I don't know them well at all. With one or two exceptions, I certainly don't take the time to stop by their homes and see how they are doing. I have to ask myself, could the same thing happen in my neighborhood? I like to think not and I like to think I'd notice if something that big was amiss, but who knows for sure?

Yep, this one's going to haunt me for awhile. Hopefully this tragic story serves as a cautionary tale, not just to me but to others as well, that we need to be more actively engaged in the lives of those around us. People matter and we need to make sure they know it.


Article Comments



Mar-26-14 11:30 AM

Thanks for sharing this story with all of us. This is so sad, hopefully we can learn from this tragic story and see that it's OK to be friendly with our neighbors and keep an eye out for one another!!! Thanks again!!!


Mar-18-14 8:27 AM

Having connections with fellow humans can be what is sad depending on varibles. Lonely means you want to be with other life forms. Being alone may be the condition she wanted to be in. Raise a dog and you aren't alone till the dog dies then you are sad and lonely. Time is often a vary important varible.


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