Petaluma neighbors ‘horrified’ after police find body of woman believed dead for a year

Police said they found a second woman in a bedroom who claimed to be the daughter of the woman who had died. She told officers her mother died of natural causes in April 2021.|

The discovery Tuesday of a body believed to be decomposing for over a year inside an occupied Petaluma home came as a shock to residents in the quiet neighborhood where the home sits on the southwestern edge of the city.

Petaluma Police Department officers found the body in the home’s living room Tuesday morning after neighbors reported they hadn’t seen one of the women who lived there in weeks and had been unsuccessful in attempts to check on her.

There were 20 to 30 packages piled up by the front door of the home, neighbors told police.

Responding officers conducted a welfare check at about 10:50 a.m. at the home in the 200 block of Windsor Drive. When no one answered, they went inside and found the body, according to the Petaluma Police Department.

Investigators believe the woman may have died of natural causes more than a year ago. She appeared to be in advanced stages of decomposition.

A spokesperson for the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said it could take several days for the Coroner Unit to release the woman’s name because the level of decomposition was complicating the identification process.

Police said they found a second woman in a bedroom who claimed to be the daughter of the woman who had died.

She told officers her mother died of natural causes in April 2021.

The woman cooperated with investigators and was taken to a hospital for medical evaluation, police said.

Officials determined the home was uninhabitable and a Petaluma code enforcement officer red-tagged it.

The Petaluma Police Department did not respond to inquiries Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, the front entrance to the white, two-story home was boarded up and the curtains were shut. A red tag was taped to a front window as the front door, lying on its side in front of the home, had been torn off its hinges. Scores of boxes sat to the side untouched.

The neighborhood, a quiet suburban area with trimmed hedges and people walking their dogs, is split into quadrants of houses that face each other and share a driveway.

Three neighbors in the quadrant where the deceased woman was found declined to talk Wednesday to a Press Democrat reporter. One woman, who did not want to share her name, said she had been too busy taking care of her ailing husband to notice anything unusual next door.

Other residents in the neighborhood remained mystified Wednesday morning.

Brenda Martin, 52, said she saw an ambulance and a fire truck pull into the driveway around 11 a.m. Tuesday. An hour later, she saw more police and a crew in an investigative van, who put up crime scene tape.

“I knew something horrible had happened,” Martin said. “I don’t know them. I just know it’s really tragic.”

She questioned how neighbors could have waited for all those packages to pile up before calling police.

“If one of the neighbors in my quadrant had even three packages, and I knew they weren’t on vacation, I would have called police,” she said.

Beth Namei, 50, was out walking her dog when she heard about the news.

“I’m horrified,” she said, adding that the idyllic neighborhood is mostly home to retired residents, empty-nesters and couples.

Jeff Maddux, 62, who lives one quadrant down, said he didn’t know or see who lived at the house, but he noticed the drapes were always drawn.

“It’s shocking,” Maddux said. “It’s a reminder to make sure you know what’s going on around you.”

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi. You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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