Clipped From The Salina Journal
Man freezes to death in unheated home full of cash WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — An 89-year-old recluse who froze to death in his unheated home within feet of more than $188,000 in cash willed more than a half-million dollars to a church he seldom attended, officials say. "I can't understand why a person of his means would choose to live like that," Washington Washington County Coroner Farrell Jackson said this week. Joseph Heer had been dead for "at least a couple of days" when his body was found Dec. 31 in the icy house, said police Lt. Ted Zets. At Heer's request, gas service to the three- story brick house had been cut off two years ago. An electric space heater in the room where his body was found was unplugged. "I can tell you it was so cold in that house I couldn't stand it," Jackson said. "I went in with just my suitcoat on and I had to come back out and get my topcoat." Heer, who died of hypothermia, was found fully clothed in bed in the sitting room, Jackson said. Neighbors called police when they noticed the storm front door of his home was locked but the interior door was open, Zets said. There was only one electric light bulb in the house and no television or radio, Jackson said. Heer, who lived alone and whose only relatives relatives are nieces and nephews, willed his estate to the Immaculate Conception Church of Washington, Jackson said. Jackson and police found money stashed in an unlocked safe, a steel box under the bed and a steel box bolted to a table in the sitting room. "It was in bags and envelopes," the coroner said. "Some of the bills were very old and some were brand new. There was $1,000 in 50s in an envelope, $1,000 of 20s in another, other envelopes envelopes with $1,000 in each. "Some were Social Security envelopes where he had just cashed the check, stuck the money in the envelope and put it away." The money, which was taken to Jackson's office to be counted, totaled $188,545.99. Heer's estate also included a bank account with a balance of $400,000, Jackson said. Heer and his brother, George, had owned and operated the Washington Plumbing and Heating Heating Co. and had retired from the business decades ago, said Grace Skoog, Heer's niece and executrix of his estate. The two brothers lived together until October, October, when George died of a cerebral hemorrhage hemorrhage at age 95. Jackson said Skoog told him she offered to help her uncle "because he couldn't do a lot for himself anymore, but he refused." "Apparently he managed to keep his money a secret," Jackson said. "I think his relatives knew he had some money, but I don't think they had any idea of how much." The Rev. Joseph Beck, associate pastor of the church, said Heer was a member but was not known to the clergy. "He did not attend church in recent years and most of us did not know him," he said. "He did not even request shut-in visits, as is common with elderly parishioners."