SALT LAKE CITY — A man found inside a freezer in a deceased elderly woman’s apartment in Tooele has been identified as the woman’s husband.
Tooele police announced late Tuesday afternoon that an autopsy identified the man as 69-year-old Paul Edward Mathers. But a cause of death was not determined.
The autopsy also did nothing to narrow down how long Mathers’ body may have been in the freezer, which as of Tuesday was believed to be anywhere from a year-and-a-half to 11 years.
The investigation began just after 11 a.m. on Friday, when a Tooele police officer conducted a welfare check at the Remington Park Apartments, 495 W. Utah Ave., on 75-year-old Jeanne Sourone-Mathers. A maintenance worker at the complex had not seen the elderly woman for two weeks and asked that police enter her apartment to check on her.
When an officer entered, Sourone-Mathers was found deceased on her bed, said Tooele Police Sgt. Jeremy Hansen. As of Tuesday, her death was not considered suspicious.
But as the officer was checking other items in the apartment, looking for clues that may help police determine how long Sourone-Mathers had been dead, he made a very unexpected discovery.
Inside a 3- to 4-foot wide freezer located in a utility room was the frozen body of an adult male, Hansen said.
As of Tuesday, police were not officially labeling the man’s death as a homicide pending the results of the autopsy. However, Hansen said the death is suspicious, and investigators believe the elderly woman was aware that the body was in her freezer.
“That’s why we strongly suspect foul play,” Hansen said.
Hansen said police had collected other undisclosed evidence from the apartment.
Sourone-Mathers, who neighbors say used a wheelchair, does not have any family locally, according to police. She moved into her apartment in December of 2007, Hansen said. For awhile, a man was believed to have lived with her.
“When we started talking to different people in different apartments that surround hers, they all recall seeing a guy there, but everyone’s time frame was different. So one person would say eight years, and another person would say five years, four years. So the more people we talked to, the bigger the scale got as to the last time any guy was seen there at the apartment,” he said.
Hansen said at the time Sourone-Mathers moved in, her husband’s name was on the lease with her. Investigators will now begin searching documents to try and figure out when the last time Paul Mathers was seen or someone had documentation of him.
Hansen also said there were no reports of a missing person.
Once a cause of death is determined, he said detectives could start putting together what happened. Police were hoping an autopsy would be conducted Wednesday, but said it all depended on the medical examiner’s holiday schedule and when his office determined the body was ready to be examined.