How An Overdraft Lead To The Discovery Of A Mummified Body

It is a morbid thought, but those of us who live alone have probably had it cross our minds at least once or twice: If we were to unexpectedly pass away, how long would it take for our dead body to be found? A day? A week? A month? Or maybe even years?

While we all like to believe we would be missed almost immediately, taking a long time to discover a person's dead body is not exactly unheard of, as was the case with Pia Farrenkopf, a 49-year-old resident of Pontiac, Michigan. Farrenkopf's body was discovered a remarkable five years after she had passed away inside her own garage, with her neighbors apparently having been none the wiser that they were living adjacent to a corpse the whole time, according to the New Yorker. And if it were not for an overdraft on her bank account, it just might have taken even longer than that for authorities to finally discover the remains of Pia Farrenkopf.

Farrenkopf traveled often for work

The Michigan resident had lived in the quiet, middle-class suburban town since 2003, although she traveled frequently for business, so it wasn't strange for people to go long periods of time without seeing her. "We worked in the international division, so everybody in that department traveled a lot. It wasn't unusual for people to be gone for a month and then come back for a week or two and then be gone for another month or two," Joan Gill Strack, a former coworker of Farrenkopf, recalled to the Detroit Free Press

In the months before her death, Farrenkopf was working as a successful self-employed financial troubleshooter, whose last job had been as a contractor for Chrysler Financial, according to USA Today. However, in September 2008, Farrenkopf's contract with Chrysler Financial ended and she stopped working.

Farrenkopf had never been terribly close to her neighbors, although she did pay one neighbor to help maintain her property, mowing her lawn and shoveling snow in the winter. Around 2007, the neighbor stopped hearing from Farrenkopf, but continued to maintain her lawn without payment, as did another neighbor, who took over the maintenance duties in 2013. But while they cared for the outside of the home, it seems that in five years, none of her neighbors knocked on the door to check in on Farrenkopf herself.

Farrenkopf was known to be a loner

After all, there was no real reason why the neighbors should think they needed to check on Farrenkopf. She was famously a loner, and people who knew her reported that it was not uncommon for her to avoid contact or fail to return phone calls. "If you would wave or say 'hi' when she drove by or went by walking her dog, she wouldn't really respond," one neighbor recalled, per the Detroit Free Press. Even her own family would go years without speaking to Farrenkopf, with one of her sisters, Jean LeBlanc, explaining "she would go, literally, for years without us hearing from her. And then all of a sudden, she'd show up."

So there seemed to be no real reason for alarm. Farrenkopf's mortgage and bills were consistently being paid online each month, via a monthly auto draft that she had set up through her bank. On paper, there appeared to be nothing amiss. However, that proved not to be the case. On March 1, 2013, Farrenkopf made her final mortgage payment. Shortly afterwards, the auto payments abruptly stopped going through. Due to her failure to continue making payments on her mortgage, the bank foreclosed on her house in January 2014.

Farrenkopf's body was discovered when her bank account ran dry

Onlookers had been noticing that Farrenkopf's home had been falling into disrepair for some time. However, until the foreclosure, no one had any authority to enter the house and make repairs. Finally, in March of 2014, the bank sent two contractors to the Farrenkopf residence to fix a hole in the roof, as well as take pictures of the property. But when the repairmen entered the garage, they made a horrifying discovery. Farrenkopf's 2003 Jeep Liberty was still parked inside, and in the backseat was a completely mummified body, still clothed in jeans and a jacket (via USA Today).

Using a DNA test, authorities confirmed that the body found in the garage did indeed belong to Pia Farrenkopf, although its mummification prevented them from determining a cause of death, per CBS News. The last bank withdrawal Farrenkopf made that was not auto debited was made on Feb. 25, 2009, and the last deposit had been made even prior to that (via the Detroit Free Press). However, at the time of her death, she still had around $54, 000 in her checking account, so all her bills continued to be paid automatically -– that is, until March of 2013, when the money in her account finally ran out, triggering the foreclosure that led to her eventual discovery. Authorities determined Pia Farrenkopf likely passed away sometime in February of 2009.