The mummified remains of a woman lay decomposing in the back seat of a car for six years before anyone noticed, police have said.
Officials think the body, which has not yet been formally identified but is believed to be Pia Davida Farrenkopf, the last owner of the house, was found in the garage of Farrenkopf's home in Pontiac, Michigan. The body was only discovered when a bank contractor was sent to the home to investigate a hole in the roof.
Ms Farrenkopf's bills were paid by direct debit, her mail sent to the post office and her grass regularly cut by a neighbour for six years. The woman’s remains were only discovered in the Jeep Liberty after Ms Farrenkopf account ran out of funds and someone was sent to check why mortgage payments had stopped.
She was found clothed in a heavy jacket and jeans, which led investigators to suspect that she died in the winter, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The key was in the ignition, but switched to the off mode, according to Undersheriff Mike McCabe.
The death is being treated as a homicide at this time, and police say suicide by carbon monoxide is unlikely.
Medical examiners hope to find dental records to formally identify the corpse.
It is thought that the woman stopped working as a contractor in the financial department of the Chrysler car firm in 2008. She then set up direct debit payments from her bank which at one time contained $54,000.
“It is kind of the perfect storm for a mysterious set of circumstance and a challenge because of the extreme degradation of the body,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
“The last withdrawal from her account was in March 2013,” he added.
Edward Caroll, who married Farrenkopf’s late mother three years ago, told local broadcaster WXYZ that Ms Farrenkopf was estranged from her family and did not answer her invitation to the wedding.
"I tried to find her through the internet and everything and I never could find her. And I wrote a letter a couple times and I think some of them came back. Her mother hadn’t heard from her for years and years," he said.
Neighbours said the woman had family in Germany and would be gone for days or weeks at a time. When she was back home, she kept to herself, WXYZ reported.
“Nobody came over there to check on the lady. It's weird. And it's actually scary,” a neighbour who wished to remain anonymous told the local TV station.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content