TOOELE, Utah (CBS Local) — A man found dead in a freezer may have planned to keep his death a secret to help his wife collect government benefits, police in Utah said.
Officers found the body of Paul Edward Mathers, 69, in a chest-style freezer on Nov. 22, shortly after his wife died of natural causes in a retirement community in Tooele, about 35 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Investigators believe his wife, Jeanne Souron-Mathers, 75, had put her husband in the freezer after he died between February 2009 and March 2009.
They also found a notarized letter signed by Paul Mathers stating his wife was not responsible for his death.
“It was notarized on December 2, 2008,” said Sgt. Jeremy Hansen of the Tooele Police Department told KSTU. “We believe he had a terminal illness.”
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Investigators are looking into the possibility that the couple planned to keep Mathers’ death a secret so his wife could continue receiving his Social Security and Veteran’s Affairs benefits after his death.
“Jeanne was, by all appearances, a very nice person. Very friendly. We’ve talked to her quite a bit and took her to doctor appointments,” said Evan Kline, a resident of the retirement community. “The story that — at least she was putting out — was her husband walked out on her.”
“I think he died and she kept him so she didn’t have to turn in his Social Security,” said James Kite, another resident in the retirement community.
“Based on what I know now, I’d have to say it was probably the plan, yeah, for her to keep the money because it was her only source of income,” Kline said
Police investigators believe Souron-Mathers received at least $177,000 of government payouts after her husband’s death.