PORT ANGELES — City police discovered this week the skeletal remains of a 79-year-old woman who had been left on her living room couch by her autistic son for about two months.
Monika J. Neubert died of apparent natural causes at her house in the 500 block of East 10th Street, Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Jason Viada said.
Her son, John Neubert, 42, remained at the residence where he had been living with his mother until the body was discovered Sunday.
“I’m not going to be able to offer a reasonable explanation for that behavior,” Viada said in a Monday interview.
Officer Kelly Perry said John Neubert is autistic and did not understand that his mother had died, repeatedly saying that Monika Neubert was “fine” and had been “sleeping for a few days,” according to a case report.
“This is a tragic case for a couple of different reasons,” Viada said Tuesday.
‘“Obviously, you have the death of a loved one. That’s a tragedy. But you also have a person that is completely unable to understand what has happened.”
Monika Neubert’s daughter phoned police from her California home Sunday saying she had not heard from her mother in about two months, Perry said.
Monika Neubert’s college friend, a Wisconsin woman with whom she spoke regularly, also had not heard from Neubert in about two months, Perry said.
The friend told police that Monika Neubert was “not able to get around much anymore” and had “not been able to go out for walks with her son,” Perry said.
Neighbors told police that they, too, had not seen Monika Neubert in months but had seen her son walking to and from the residence.
After conducting a welfare check at the home Sunday morning, Perry spotted John Neubert walking along Peabody Street and asked if he could speak with his mother.
“John stated that his mother was fine and said ‘she’s been sleeping for a few days,’” Perry said in his report. “I immediately believed that John’s mother was probably deceased.”
Perry said he walked into the living room and found Monika Neubert’s remains on a couch near the door.
“I observed skeletal remains of a subject with gray hair and a pink nightgown on,” Perry said.
While waiting for detectives to arrive, Perry said John Neubert repeated that his mother had been “sleeping for a few days.”
“I told John that his mother was deceased,” Perry said. “John whispered under his breath, ‘Say you’re fine.’ John then said, ‘I’m fine.’
“I tried to explain to John further that his mother had passed away and he did the same thing,” Perry added.
“John only did this when I tried to tell him his mother was deceased.”
A designated mental health crisis responder evaluated John Neubert on scene and “determined there was not anything they could do for John,” Perry said.
Detective David Arand said the house was heavily infested with rats.
Police offered John Neubert another place to stay but he refused, Perry said.
Monika Neubert’s son-in-law said he planned to fly from California to Seattle on Monday and drive to Port Angeles to assist John Neubert, Perry said.
“I am only aware that arrangements were made for family to come up and help him, and I don’t have any newer information than that,” Viada said Tuesday.
The police report was forwarded to Adult Protective Services.
Under the Revised Code of Washington, it is a misdemeanor to fail to report human remains to a coroner or law enforcement.
Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney/Ex Officio Coroner Mark Nichols said an autopsy would be performed at the King County Medical Examiner’s Office to confirm the identity and to “hopefully provide some insight into manner and cause of death.”
“I have not heard anything from law enforcement that would indicate that her adult son is being looked at as a suspect in any crime,” Nichols added in a Tuesday interview.
“The bottom line is there are some cases where prosecution is simply not appropriate, not constructive, not part of a solution,” Viada said.
“The officers on scene might normally explain to someone the law about how our society deals with human remains.
“But before that conversation could really be constructive, I think the person would have to fully comprehend that a death had occurred, and I don’t think we ever got there.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.