Bill Scheibe Jr. knew his mother was a hoarder, but nothing prepared him for what he saw when he stepped into her home for the first time in 20 years last weekend: towering mounds of rubbish reaching to the ceiling and spilling out windows.
Scheibe had finally gone inside the bi-level house in Worth, Ill., because his 72-year-old mother, Margareta, hadn't been seen in weeks. But he couldn't even get through the side door, and then he noticed the strong smell from the basement.
"I thought, there's no happy ending here," Scheibe said. "I just had a feeling. I had a bad feeling for years. . .It's a terrible thing to deal with."
It would be three days before emergency crews, dressed in white hazardous materials suits, found her decomposed body beneath a pile of trash.
"I never want to go in again," Scheibe said Wednesday. "It’s a TV show come to life."
An autopsy found that Margareta Scheibe died from heart disease, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office, which found no sign of trauma.
Scheibe said he went to the home Saturday after a cousin grew worried because she hadn't been seen in about three or four weeks. They told him her truck was sitting in the driveway all that time and she had stopped attending mass at Our Lady of the Ridge in Chicago Ridge.
"She would never miss church," Scheibe said.
Not seeing her inside the home, Scheibe said he had an "uncomfortable" conversation with his older brother who also lived in the home and decided to go to police.
Police and fire personnel spent four hours Saturday searching through heaps of garbage, old broken toys and stacks of newspapers but did not find Scheibe, according to police and neighbors.
Many areas of the home were inaccessible because of the stacks of garbage, and the stench inside the house was unbearable even for officers with hazardous material masks, a Worth police source said. They found Scheibe's body Tuesday afternoon.
Scheibe said he hadn't been in the house for 20 years, and usually met her in the driveway when picking her up. But he was long aware of his mother's hoarding problem. Every time he spoke to her, he encouraged her to get help cleaning it or just move out. After a while, he said he felt helpless.
"She was smart as a tack," Scheibe said. "She was a sharp, sharp person. You try to help, you try to help, but there is not a court in America that would have declared her incompetent. . .That was her little world and she never was leaving it."
Scheibe attributes his mother's obsession to poor living conditions in Germany at the end of World War II when things like soap were a scarce commodity.
He said his father, William Scheibe Sr., a marble and granite setter with a strong personality, was able to keep the house livable. But when he suffered a stroke 16 years ago, things started to get out of hand, he said. Things got worse when his dad died on Christmas Eve in 2010.
Scheibe said his brother Frank, who served in the Air Force in the 1980s, suffered a nervous breakdown during his time in the service. Since then, his older brother has struggled with mental health issues and has lived with his parents. He's been unemployed for the last six to seven years, Scheibe said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times