A mummified body in Santa Fe, NM was discovered last week in horrifying conditions. The remains have since been identified as the Chicana activist, teacher, writer, and publisher Barbara or Bobbi Salinas-Norman. But questions remain as to how the once-vital 70-year-old could have been forgotten and left to mummify in her condo for what friends now say could be more than a year.
The body was first discovered by her brother-in-law Louis Ponce. He told The Santa Fe New Mexican that he and his wife, Salinas’ sister, went to Santa Fe last week to check on Bobbi. He had previously attempted to visit two years earlier.
On that occasion, she refused to answer the phone and wouldn’t come to the door until Ponce called the police. She then came out to talk to Ponce but didn’t allow him inside.
It’s a familiar pattern if you’ve ever known a hoarder. But hindsight is twenty twenty. She seemed OK, and Ponce tried to keep in touch with letters and phone calls.
She never responded but the letters were not returned. Finally, he realized that he would need to go physically to check on her again.
Ponce didn’t call police because he found the door unlocked. “Wow, the smell was awful,” he told The New Mexican. “I never knew anybody could be that filthy.” Then he got a real shock when he found her dessicated body.
Why didn’t anyone catch on sooner? Her power had been cut off for nonpayment, and the condo was in foreclosure. Her water may have been cut off as well, since when she was still alive, she reportedly washed up at the public library.
An angry neighbor said that he complained about the smell from Bobbi Salinas-Norman’s unit in November. No one followed up, and the police said that she was likely dead since at least October, if not before.
Santa Fe spokeswoman Celina Westervelt told KOAT that, “This woman look[ed] like a mummy, essentially. All of her skin was dried out. You could see the skeleton underneath. There were no body fluids anymore.”
Ponce said that Salinas-Norman had become a hoarder and started behaving oddly about 10 years ago. But no one guessed that the former activist would isolate herself to such a degree that New Mexican authorities would one day be analyzing her mummified body.
[compulsive hoarding photo by “Grap” via Wikimedia Commons]