LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Detectives plan to pore over financial records of a woman who never notified authorities that her husband died in their home and lay decomposing on the living room floor for more than nine months.
Lafayette police Lt. John Withers said Wednesday that investigators will aim to determine whether those records indicate any signs of fraud.
The statement comes a day after Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt said Gerald "Scooter" Gavan, Jr., an elderly veteran whose body was found May 3 in his home in the Highland Park neighborhood, had been dead since at least July 15, 2013.
Withers said detectives will look into records in Gavan's name as well as those of 54-year-old Ila Solomon, his wife since April 2012.
Property records indicate that Solomon purchased the house next door to Gavan's in February 2013 for $77,000. She said Gavan, 88, had worked with her through the winter months to renovate that house, although the coroner said Gavan had been dead since summer.
Solomon said Tuesday that the fixer-upper has been for sale since the day she bought it.
She also said she'll put Gavan's lifelong home up for sale once police conclude their investigation. Police have prohibited her from moving back in, she said, as they investigate the circumstances of her husband's passing.
"The police will let me go in there, but I can't stay," she said.
Solomon said she first moved in with Gavan, at his request, in 2000. Solomon said she continued living in the home until — according to her version of events — he died of a stroke April 28, 2014, just five days before officers found the man's severely decomposed corpse.
Avolt positively identified Gavan by the metal plate implanted in his ankle.
Rytha Geyman, who's lived on Gavan's street for 22 years, said she's appalled that a man of such noble character who served in the U.S. military during World War II could have been left to decay on his own carpet.
Geyman said the fact that her neighbor's death went unreported is "absolutely wrong" and that she hopes justice is done for Gavan.
Withers said pending toxicology reports could shed light on whether foul play was involved in Gavan's death. Lafayette police will forward the findings of their investigation, he said, to Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington for review. Harrington will then determine whether criminal charges are in order.
Failure to report a dead body is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana. State law stipulates that anyone who discovers a deceased person must notify a public safety officer, coroner, physician or 911 call center within three hours.
Solomon said she knew it was a misdemeanor not to report her husband's death but that she thought the law provides one week before a failure to act becomes criminal.
She delayed telling authorities about the death because, she claimed, Gavan had a specific request that she hoped to fulfill for him. He wanted his body to be eaten by birds, she said. Tibetan Buddhists call the practice a "sky burial."
Solomon said she couldn't live in the house with the odor of Gavan's decaying body, so she slept in the house next door and would return each night to open the side door in hopes that birds would fly in and feed on her husband.
"That's kind of a little thing, isn't it? Keep a secret and open the door?" she said. "All he wanted me to do was just keep his secret and open the door."
Solomon said she didn't know at the time that Texas State University's Forensic Anthropology Center studies vultures as they feed on human bodies donated to science. She said it's now her goal to get Gavan's remains to the site, known as a "body farm."
"I really want him to get to Texas," she said. "I do hope that if somebody else gets put in the same situation I got put into, they'll know about the body farm and the body ranch, so they'll know where to go."