The Sideshow

Man’s body goes unfound for four years

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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CBS58.com

The body of a Wisconsin man was discovered inside his home more than four years after he reportedly killed himself with a handgun.

The "nearly skeletonized body" of David Carter was discovered inside his home in January by a real estate agent sent to deliver foreclosure papers to the house, as first reported by wisn.com. But his actual death is estimated to have occurred sometime in 2007. So, how did Carter's death manage to go unnoticed for so long by friends, family, bill collectors and even the local government?

Like so many things these days, the nation's struggling economy is at least partly to blame. After Carter disappeared, his utilities were eventually shut off and it was presumed his home had been abandoned. But that's only part of the sad story.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl dug deeper into the story and discovered that Carter, intentionally or not, had nearly all of his bases covered before apparently choosing to end his own life in utter seclusion.

"This may indeed be the perfect storm that caused the body to go unnoticed," Stingle said in an email interview with the Sideshow. "Still, though, when Carter went totally out of contact with everyone for quite a while, someone should have insisted that police enter the house."

Carter told his friends and neighbors that he was planning to move to New Mexico. When he first disappeared, they apparently assumed he had followed through on those plans. Carter had no siblings and never met his father. The death of his mother in 1997 reportedly put him in a depressive state he never recovered from.

His friends described Carter as a "giving and funny guy." But as with many cases of severe depression, it appears Carter spent enough time in isolation that his disappearance didn't immediately register as alarming.

According to the county medical examiner's report, as quoted by Stingl, "Spider webs were noted all around the residence," and that a "Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun was found lying on the decedent's chest."

Carter's home was paid for, but while local property taxes still accumulated, the city was in no rush to collect. In fact, Stingl notes that the city of West Allis continued to mow his lawn and shovel snow from his driveway in the years after his then unknown passing. The $3,700 in charges for the annual maintenance efforts was simply added to Carter's growing county property tax bills and fees, which had grown to more than $30,000.

Authorities finally moved in after Carter's house was awarded to Milwaukie County in a December tax foreclosure. It is now being put up for sale. Meanwhile, Carter's cousin, Kevin O'Neill, and some of Carter's friends are planning a memorial gathering in his honor.

Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2007, claiming nearly 35,000 lives. Carter's friends says he was depressed in the years leading up to his death and had been drinking more than usual. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 90 percent of all suicide victims experience issues with substance abuse and/or depression leading up to their deaths.

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