A Utah man whose body was found in a freezer following his wife’s death last month may have written a letter -- and had it notarized -- absolving his wife of blame in his death more than a decade ago, authorities said.
The body of Paul Edward Mathers was found hidden in his wife’s freezer Nov. 22 when a maintenance man in Jeanne Souron-Mathers’s Tooele retirement community became concerned after not seeing her for two weeks. Police officers who responded for a welfare check found Souron-Mathers, 75, dead of natural causes.
They found Mathers during a routine search of the apartment. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Mathers, who was 58 when he was last seen in 2009, was identified through fingerprints.
Sgt. Jeremy Hansen of the Tooele Police Department told Fox13 in Salt Lake City that investigators who found Mathers in the freezer also found a letter stating his wife did not kill him.
“It was notarized on Dec. 2, 2008,” Hansen told the news station. “We believe he had a terminal illness.”
The Tribune reported that detectives have not yet verified that the signature on the letter belongs to Mathers. Hansen told the newspaper, however, that investigators have spoken to the woman who notarized the document.
The notary said she did not read the letter before stamping and signing it, the Tribune reported.
“It says that his wife was not responsible for his death,” Hansen said. “There’s more in the letter, but we’re not releasing that yet.”
The sergeant said investigators believe Mathers died between Feb. 4 and March 8, 2009. The military veteran made it to a Feb. 4 doctor’s appointment at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
Mathers’ cause of death is still being determined, Hansen told the Tribune.
“We’re expecting that report to come back soon,” the sergeant said.
Investigators believe Mathers may have wanted to ensure financial support for his wife after he died. The Department of Veteran Affairs continued to pay out Mathers’ veteran benefits until Souron-Mathers’ death, the Tribune reported.
“We don’t have the final report from them yet, but the preliminary report indicates that if our time frame is accurate, she would have received more than $157,000 in VA benefits” after her husband’s death, Hansen told the newspaper.
Investigators are also looking into whether Souron-Mathers continued to receive her husband’s Social Security benefits after his death.
“It’s a very odd case,” Hansen said.
Souron-Mathers’ neighbors at the Remington Park Apartments told Fox13 they never met her husband. It was not clear how long she lived in the community.
Evan Kline, whose family often helped the elderly woman out, said she told people her husband had left her. He said his “jaw hit the floor” when he found out the man had been in her freezer for more than 10 years.
“Jeanne was, by all appearances, a very nice person. Very friendly,” Kline told the news station. “We’ve talked to her quite a bit and took her to doctor appointments.”
He said Mathers’ benefits were Souron-Mathers’ only source of income.
“I guess you could call it kind of smart,” Kline said. “Then again, crooks a lot of the time are smart.”
Another neighbor, James Kite, agreed that it was smart, but said it was “creepy.”
“I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment with my dead husband or my dead wife,” Kite told Fox13.
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