DENMARK -- When a Church Street woman didn’t gather her mail for several days, her letter carrier became suspicious that something was wrong.
U.S. Postal Service employee Charles Shepperd said he knew the woman at 3260 Church St. for nearly three decades.
On Tuesday morning, Bamberg County Sheriff’s Office deputies discovered her body in her living room after Sheppard called 911 to request they check on her.
Bamberg County Coroner Billy Duncan said the woman died of natural causes. He won’t release her name until her next of kin arrives, which will likely be on Saturday.
The woman lived in a double-wide mobile home within walking distance of Voorhees College, right outside of the Denmark city limits.
Deputies arrived at the residence at 10:54 p.m. Tuesday and knocked on the woman’s door, but she didn’t answer.
Deputies then entered the house through her unlocked front door and discovered her body in a nearby room.
Due to the condition of the residence, deputies contacted the Denmark Fire Department to assist with the removal of the woman’s body.
“It was terrible. It was terrible,” Bamberg County Sheriff Ed Darnell said.
“It was the worst hoarding situation I’ve ever seen. … There was trash and boxes stacked up to the ceiling,” he said.
Darnell said firefighters used chainsaws to remove a rear wall of the home so they could extract the woman because there wasn’t any way to remove her through the front of the house due to the amount of items in the home.
“The conditions she was living in were deplorable,” Duncan said.
According to a Bamberg County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the woman was 80 years old.
Sheppard said he and the woman once worked together at Denmark Technical College, where she worked a resident supervisor.
For the past 30 years, he’s been a letter carrier in Denmark and became acquainted with the routines and habits of the customers on his daily mail delivery route.
Sheppard said he noticed about two weeks ago that she stopped gathering her mail from her mailbox daily, which caused him to be concerned.
He said he last saw her June 4 sitting on the front step and smoking a cigarette.
In the days that followed, her mail sat uncollected in her mailbox.
Sheppard said he decided on Tuesday that if the mail remained uncollected from her mailbox, he would call authorities.
When he observed her mail was in the box on Tuesday and buzzards were perched in the trees over the house, he called law enforcement.
The woman was pleasant, he said. “Every year for Christmas she put $20 in her mailbox for me.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to call authorities,” Sheppard said. “I know all of my customers from being out there so long. I knew her routine.”