Darren Pirtle: The Man Who Continued To Live With His Dead Roommate For 4 Years

Human beings are inherently social creatures and are known to form strong and lasting bonds during life. Even after a life has ended, we're all too often reluctant to say goodbye. According to NPR, the Toraja people of southern Indonesia keep the bodies of their deceased loved ones preserved in their homes for years after their passing and are even wont to exhume their corpses after burial from time to time simply to say hi. While it may seem like a morbid custom, it's essentially considered just another part of life's continuation to people of the region. 

Of course, there are ceremonial institutions that have been around for generations and then there are downright bizarre behaviors that are difficult to justify.  What motivates people to keep the company of the dead? How often does it happen? Does it unequivocally denote insanity? There are more than a few answers to each of those questions, and it's not always a clear-cut case like Ed Gein's morbid motivations for seeking the company of corpses. In the case of a Northern California man, Darren Pirtle, the motive was pretty clear: money, money, money (via KTLA). 

Where in the world is Kevin Olson?

Nobody had seen or heard from Kevin Olson, 64, since October of 2018, and it wasn't until August of 2002 that his friends and family became fed up with the myriad of excuses given by his roommate, Darren Pirtle, 57, for his absence and decided to take matters into their own hands. According to ABC 10, Pirtle was handed a search warrant, and after a thorough examination of his house, they found Olson's body in a back bedroom in a mature state of decomposition.

ABC 10 reports that Olson likely died near the end of 2018 — right around the time his relatives lost contact with him. Imagine living with a dead body stored in your house for years. One can imagine that it would take a seriously desensitized approach to life to endure such a grisly reality. However, Pirtle didn't seem to have a problem with it and managed to keep his roommate's death a secret for a disturbing amount of time. 

According to what the District Attorney for Butte County, Mike Ramsey, shared in a statement, Olson's family members had tried to reach him for years, but Pirtle always put them off with various excuses, according to ABC 10. The only explanation Pirtle didn't provide was the truth of the matter: that Olson was in fact dead, and his body had been left to decay in a back bedroom of the house for years.

Kevin Olson — the generous and silent roommate

On September 28, 2022, KTLA reported that Pirtle would stand trial for check forgery and identity theft. However, this wasn't your run-of-the-mill fraud case. It was discovered that the Butte County, California resident was cashing checks made out to him by Olson long after his death. For a time, he was able to get away with extracting money directly from Olson's credit union without anyone suspecting that there was something sinister and deceptive at play. That's because Olson was a retired Navy veteran, and his retirement money from the military continued to be deposited into his bank account where Pirtle could access it. 

Pirtle didn't start cashing Olson's checks until 2019 (around 50 of them before he was caught, as KTLA reports), so one can't help but wonder what was going through his head during those intermediary months. Was his grand venture in identity theft long in the making? Did the idea occur to him before or after his roommate died? How did he stomach the presence of a dead body — a friend, no less — for as long as he did? It's bizarre and unnerving. 

Olson's neighbors suspected nothing

Following the shocking discovery, investigators reached out to Olson's neighbors for more information. One neighbor told Action News Now, "It was during COVID-19, and we didn't see any activity around the house, and the grass growth was over his motorcycle and his pickup, and I got worried so I called in for a welfare check and they came in and the officer called me back and told me everything looked normal." 

However, by and large, nobody in the area suspected anything strange. While they admitted to not having seen Olson in a long time, they knew he was elderly and that he lived with another man, so they weren't necessarily surprised that he hadn't left the house for some time. Pirtle, on the other hand, had been observed walking his dog from time to time, as Action News Now reports. He entered a not-guilty plea in response to the charges of identity theft and check forgery at the end of September, though his preliminary was set for November 3, 2022 (via Action News Now).