Pia Farrenkopf’s last interaction with the world around her took place on February 25, 2009, when she withdrew $1,500 from her checking account.
None of her friends or family saw or heard anything from Pia, whom they described as fun and intelligent, since then. They explained it with Farrenkopf’s reclusive disposition.
In the interim, letters filled up Pia’s mailbox in the middle-class Pontiac, Michigan, neighborhood where she lived, before eventually being taken back to the post office as unclaimed. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Pia Farrenkopf, who was 44 when authorities believe she died, sat for five years in the backseat of her car, mummified.
One of Pia’s family members did try to call in 2012, to tell of her mother’s death, but no one answered or called back.
Meanwhile, mortgage payments kept being withdrawn automatically from the woman’s bank accounts, which had substantial balances left from Pia’s job at ALLTEL Information Services, where she had once worked as a programmer of bank software.
It was not until the bank account balances ran to zero in 2013 and the lender foreclosed that Pia was finally discovered.
According to The Detroit Free Press, two repairmen, hired to fix a hole in the roof in 2014, found Pia’s mummified body, lying in the back of her Jeep Liberty, parked in her garage.
2. Neighbors said they helped clear the driveway and mow the lawn while they believed Farrenkopf was still in the home, though many eventually moved away.
3. Farrenkopf traveled to England and Scotland, as well as around the United States, while working programming banking software for ALLTEL Information Services.
Police found her surrounded by hundreds of unopened letters and a number of empty cigarette packs. Pia had $500 in cash in her pockets and a half-full bottle of wine by her side.
Investigators couldn’t find any fingerprint on the bottle.
The house was found in a state of chaos and disrepair — in stark contrast with the neat and well organized home her friend Joan Gill Strack said Pia liked to keep. Strack said:
Her house was well-kept, very clean, very tidy. She liked things picked up and ordered.
4. Farrenkopf, pictured in this undated photo, taken at a coworker’s birthday celebration, was described as an excellent employee.
However, police did find the floors littered with empty bottles of soda, yet more unopened letters, loose clothing and trash. Mold had covered walls and floor after the sump pump had broken down.
Strack, a co-worker of Pia’s when the two lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, described her as “fun to be around” and “very, very good at her job”. She added that Pia had traveled to Scotland and England and throughout the U.S. for work.
However, Pia was never social. Her siblings recalled long periods of time when they wouldn’t hear from her and she would often not return their phone calls.
And then a postcard or call would come from a far-flung place like Austria. One of Pia’s sisters, Jean LeBlanc, who lives in the Boston area, near where Pia and her nine siblings grew up, told the Free Press:
Sometimes she would go, literally, for years without us hearing from her.
And then all of a sudden, she’d show up, so nobody ever thought anything about it.
5. Darryl Tillery, a neighbor, said he could not have known that the solitary Farrenkopf was in her garage for five years.
Strack recalls how easily Pia could cut people out of her life. Once, after a friend turned up a few hours late for a party, without calling, Pia immediately ended the relationship. Strack said:
Pia told her she was done with her. She didn’t speak to her after that.
Strack added that her own friendship with Pia ended in 2001, but she offered few details beyond noting that they were together too much.
Still, by all accounts Pia was doing well. She kept working at Pontiac Fidelity National Information Services, where she was an “exemplary employee”, as management described her to the Free Press.
She was even planning to open a small business on her own — a fitness in nearby Waterford called Slender Lady.
In preparation for opening her business, Pia and her sister Jean, who managed a Curves location in Massachusetts, traveled to Texas in 2003, where the two attended a two-week seminar on health.
6. Bills and letters would stack up in Farrenkopf’s mailbox and then be returned to the post office unclaimed, a letter carried told the U.S. Postal Inspector in 2014.
That plan, however, was never brought to fruition. Court records showed that the owners of the property sued Pia in 2005 for breaking her lease, though Farrenkopf never responded to the complaint.
Credit card companies also launched three lawsuits against her over unpaid bills between 2005 and 2007, obtaining court judgments that added up to more than $15,000.
Pia’s homeowners association placed liens totaling over $2,000 over unpaid dues.
Though it was often unclear where Pia was, she wasn’t always shut in her home. Police checked on her house in 2005, after neighbors told them that they had not seen her in a month.
Inside, they rescued her abandoned cat, Bungie, and white poodle, Baby. However, while the pets were kept in a shelter and Baby was later adopted, there’s no record that Pia ever came to collect them.
Then in May 2008, Pia resigned from her job, under unclear circumstances, and in October of the same year she was cited for driving with a suspended license, expired plates and no insurance.
7. Authorities dragged out the 2003 green Jeep Liberty that once belonged to Farrenkopf where she was found dead and mummified.
No record of Pia exists after the 2009 cash withdrawal and police, who checked her credit card statements and subpoenaed bank, phone and health records as part of a “massively thorough” search, say the cause of her death is indeterminable. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said:
There was no trauma to body, so it only leads to a couple conclusions. Either it was a medical situation that led to her death or something self-induced.
Medical records showed Pia, who was 44 when police believe she died, smoked more than a pack a day and, despite being worried about her liver, drank regularly.
Some of her family members dealt with cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease, according to that report.
However, the tank in her car still had two gallons of gas left, which led investigators to rule out carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, her organs were so mummified, according to deputy medical examiner Dr. Bernardino Pacris, that a toxicology report was impossible.
The case is now inactive, leaving Pia’s relatives wondering what led to their sister’s quiet death. Her sister Jean LeBlanc said:
I just don’t understand why anybody would sit in the backseat of their own car. And just stay there. Why would you do that?
8. The family of a woman whose mummified body was found in a suburban Detroit garage had tried for years to find her and even reached out to police to check the home — a WCVB report.
Source: The Detroit Free Press.
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