Coroner says Lafayette man dead for nine months in home

Police investigate after a man is found dead inside his Lafayette home. (WLFI Photo)
Police investigate after a man is found dead inside his Lafayette home. (WLFI Photo)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — An 88-year-old Lafayette man’s body remained in his home for nine months before it was discovered by police, authorities said Wednesday.

Neighbors said Gerald Gavan’s wife lived in the home during that time and acted as if everything was normal.

“It’s really disturbing, the fact that we’ve been living here the whole time and talking to her,” Tyler Imel, who moved in next door to Gavan’s home in August, told the Journal & Courier.

An expert on insects determined that Gavan had been dead since at least last July, Tippecanoe County coroner Donna Avolt said. If necessary, she said, the forensic entomologist would testify in court that Gavan died last July 15.

But Ila Solomon, who was Gavan’s caretaker before they married two years ago in Kentucky, told the Journal & Courier that her husband didn’t die until April 28, five days before police found the body.

Officers found Gavan’s body on his living room floor near the front door last month. Detective Lt. John Withers said a relative tried to contact Gavan while he was in town for a birthday celebration and called police when Gavan did not answer.

Avolt said she is awaiting toxicology results to determine how Gavan died. It could be three weeks before she learns those results, she said.

Withers is awaiting those results, as well as information he requested from financial and medical institutions.

“We’re going to treat it like a homicide until we determine otherwise,” Withers told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Withers said that after reviewing the information he’s awaiting, he’ll turn the case over to prosecutors to review.

“It definitely will be once we get everything back,” he said. But he added that procedure is routine in unusual deaths.

Solomon said dehumidifiers, rodents and flies accelerated the decomposition of Gavan’s body enough in five days for an expert to think he’d been dead much longer.

Imel’s housemate, Joe Childs, said Solomon came and went from Gavan’s house frequently during the period in which officials believe he was dead inside the home.

“If I lived with a dead body in my house, I couldn’t compose myself the way that she did every day,” he told the Journal & Courier.

Solomon said that during the five days in which her husband’s dead body was in the house, she slept next door in a home she owns. She didn’t say why she didn’t report the death to the authorities, citing instructions from police.

“I would love to answer,” she said. “I would love to tell you. I really, really would.”

She said she wants to fulfill Gavan’s wishes by having his remains transported to a site in Texas where researchers study vultures feeding on human bodies.

 

 

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