The body of Hope Ruller, who was 94-years-old, was found on December 29 lying dead in her bed in the first floor apartment of the house pictured above, at 50 James Street in the upstate New York town of Gloversville.
While the death of an elderly woman is far from unusual, this incident has left police and family members puzzled and heartbroken. According to local authorities — and judging from the badly decomposed state of her body — Hope Ruller had been lying in her bed, deceased, for “several months.”
But Hope Ruller was not a lonely old lady. Her own daughter lived above her, on the second floor.
For reasons that police are still trying to figure out, neither Ruller’s daughter nor anyone else noticed or reported Ruller’s death until another family member called police to conduct a welfare check on the woman in her apartment. That’s when officers discovered her long-deceased body.
Ruller’s son, Richard Ruller, lives in Colorado, and says that his sister would often check in and let him know how their mother was doing. The last he heard from her, he told a local TV station, was in May.
But in December, he sent Christmas cards to both his sister and his mother. The card to his mother included a check — which was cashed. That led Richard Ruller to believe his mother was doing fine. In fact, she was already dead for weeks.
So why was the check cashed and who cashed it? Police, who say they are treating Hope Ruller’s death as “suspicious,” would like to know the answer to that question.
The body of Hope Ruller was autopsied, but because she was in such an extreme state of decomposition, an exact cause of death remains unknown. The medical examiner, however, said that the elderly woman was not the victim of a blunt force trauma, bullet, or stab wound.
“Financial records are being looked into to determine any acts that lead up to the time of death and anything that took place possibly after the time of death,” Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said.
Police would not yet say whether any Social Security checks made out to Hope Ruller had also been cashed.
UPDATE: In March, Hope Ruller’s 60-year-old daughter Mary F. Kersting was arrested and charged with larceny, as well as improper disposal of a body and elder abuse. Her mother was deaf and had dementia, and police say that Kersting failed to report her death and hid her body in a bed for a full year while she collected her mother’s Social Security and pension checks.
Police said that Hope Ruller died as far back as October of 2013, and had been lying dead in the apartment since then.
Kersting pleaded not guilty, and could face seven years in prison if convicted. Police say that she stole more than $13,000 in Social Security payments plus several hundred dollars in pension benefits intended for her late mother.
Meanwhile, neighbors of the well-liked elderly woman were appalled to learn of the circumstances surrounding her death.
“Your mother’s your mother,” said Alberta Cordone, who lives in the same neighborhood. “You’re going to tell me, in all this time, you don’t go and look on your mother downstairs? Knock on the door!”
According to her son Richard, Hope had six children and was “a wonderful mother.”
The case seems similar to the case of Pia Farrenkopf of Pontiac, Michigan, who was found last March in her car, parked in the garage of her home — where she had been sitting dead for six years.
Authorities originally said that the daughter of Hope Ruller is not being treated as a criminal suspect, but their investigation into how and why the elderly woman lay dead in her bed for months continues.
[Image: WTEN-TV Screen Grab]