Local News

Police: Burlington man hid mother's corpse

Posted September 1, 2010 2:50 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2010 6:05 p.m. EDT

— A Burlington man was charged Tuesday with hiding his mother's corpse in her home for about six months, police said Wednesday.

Don Lee Wade, 50, of 134 N. Ireland St., was being held in the Alamance County jail under a $10,000 secured bond on a charge of concealment of a death.

Burlington Housing Authority officials notified police on Aug. 25 that they had found a decomposed body inside a unit in a housing complex for senior citizens operated by the housing authority and located across the street from its offices.

Housing authority managers were conducting a routine inspection when they discovered the remains of 94-year-old Lucy Mae Hutchins Wade, police said. An autopsy determined that she died of natural causes about six months earlier.

Inspectors had tried to check on the home in recent months, but Don Wade repeatedly turned them away, saying his mother was away while recuperating from injuries suffered in a fall, said Ernest Mangum, executive director of the housing authority.

"They just assumed the son was telling them the truth," Mangum said.

Police noticed that someone had been collecting the dead woman's mail and newspapers, so they questioned her son.

"He's indicated to us he was aware of her death, and for whatever reason, he just didn't feel that he should report it," said Greg Seel, assistant chief of the Burlington Police Department.

Neighbors said they didn't suspect anything was wrong, noting Lucy Mae Wade usually kept to herself. The only times they ever saw her, they said, was when she worked in the small garden in front of her home.

"I couldn't believe it. It was just a shock," neighbor Glenda Faye Brown said.

Brown and other neighbors said they never smelled any strange odors coming from the Wade home.

"She was a great tenant, a really good person, very tiny lady, soft-spoken," Mangum said. "She deserved better than that. How could some family member do something like that?"

Seel said investigators don't know why Don Wade didn't report the death. He had cashed several of his mother's Social Security checks, but he also paid her rent and utility bills, he said.

He speculated that Don Wade, who has no previous criminal record, might not have been able to cope with her death, so he tried to continue as if nothing had happened.

Police are working with the Social Security Administration to determine exactly how much money was cashed in the checks.

In March, a Wilmington woman pleaded guilty to hiding her mother's corpse in her home for several months to collect more than $8,300 in Social Security checks and state retirement benefits.