A 78-year-old woman found dead of exposure in her unheated home had a stack of $1,000 U.S. Savings Bonds several inches thick stored neatly in a box, authorities said today.
The woman, identified as Mary Milleson, died Saturday or Sunday of hypothermia, said Dr. Robert Jensen, deputy Shawnee County coroner. Her body was discovered Wednesday in her home where the only source of heat was a burner and oven on an electric stove.
Temperatures in the Topeka area the past week have dipped into the single digits.
Police spent several hours Wednesday counting the thick stack of $1,000 U.S. Savings Bonds and certificates of deposit found in a metal box and in a cedar chest. They declined to release the total.
But Topeka police Lt. Ed White said that Milleson, a widow who lived alone, was "a wealthy lady."
Jensen said Milleson, a former schoolteacher, had sufficient income to pay for heat but ordered KPL Gas Service Co. to turn off the heat to her home more than a year ago because she did not want to pay the bills.
Hal Hudson, a KPL Gas Service spokesman, said the utility notified the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services of the woman's behavior and also sent a social worker to the woman's home and notified her relatives.
Police were summoned to the ramshackle home about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday by a mail carrier who said Milleson had not picked up her mail for several days.
When they arrived, it was 40 degrees inside the house and Milleson was lying on the kitchen floor.
Jensen said plaster was falling off the walls inside the home, which was poorly furnished.
Neighbors described Milleson as reclusive and eccentric, but said her personal appearance was always neat and clean.
Authorities were attempting to locate her relatives.