The Case of The Mummified Corpse: When, How Did Pia Farrenkopf Die?

Details are emerging about Pia Farrenkopf, whose long-dead body was found Wednesday in her Pontiac garage on the back seat of her Jeep.

There's no clear explanation of what happened, and may never be.


The gruesome find was at a northwest Pontiac house on Savanna Drive (bottom right), near Lake Angelus.

"Investigators are looking into what she was doing immediately prior to her death and what caused her death, which may never be determined," Elisha Anderson writes in the Free Press. Farrenkopf would 49 if she were alive.

Police said the body was clothed in a heavy winter coat and the skin had mummified. A key was in the Jeep’s ignition in the off position, police said. . . .
An autopsy showed no trauma to the body, and the case is being investigated as an unknown death. Investigators are treating it like it could be a homicide, so potential evidence is not tainted. . . .

It’s unclear when the woman with family on the East Coast moved to Michigan, but [Oakland Sheriff Michael] Bouchard said he believed she came here for her job as a contractor with the now-defunct Chrysler Financial.

“She didn’t have children or a husband or a pet when she was here,” Bouchard said. “Preceding that, I don’t know.” . . .

Her sister, who lives in the Boston area, has been contacted. . . .  "They hadn’t communicated for years,” Bouchard said of the sisters’ relationship.

Suicide seems unlikely, the sheriff tells Mike Martindale of The Detroit News:

“If this was someone deliberately trying to end their own life you would think the key would have been left in the “on” position and the tank would have been drained.

“For all we know, this person may have just been in the back seat looking for something and suddenly died for some reason.”

Though the bizarre case seems like an Alfred Hitchock film plot, complete with a woman's desiccated corpse suddenly in view, authorities have partial explanations for why the remains lay unnoticed for years:

Officials said the woman’s bills were automatically deducted from her bank account, and residents of the quiet middle-class neighborhood said they didn’t notice anything amiss. Some thought she had moved out of the country after the recession hit.

Eventually, the $54,000 in her account ran out, and the house went into foreclosure, leading to this week’s gruesome discovery by a contractor the bank sent to check out the home.

Anderson reconstructs financial details of Farrenkopf's life, including a 2005 state tax lien, a 2008 civil judgment against her and a $28,086 federal tax lien In 2012, years after the woman was believed to have died. 

-- Alan Stamm

Earlier at Deadline Detroit:

Her Bills Were Being Paid While Her Body Sat in the Garage for Years, March 6 

Read more:  Detroit Free Press
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