updated 12/14/2006 11:05:07 AM ET 2006-12-14T16:05:07

A deputy investigating neighbors’ latest complaint that a reclusive homeowner fed rats and didn’t take out the garbage found a decomposing body in the home with rats feeding on it.

Health officials believe the body found Monday is that of the house’s resident, Thomas H. Stone, 67, though the medical examiner’s office hadn’t confirmed his identity as of Thursday.

“In the end, he wouldn’t even take out the garbage,” said Tom Ellis, a neighbor. “It looks like he never took down the Christmas decorations from when his mother died in 1999. It was all very Edgar Allan Poe-ish.”

Ellis and other neighbors began complaining about rats to the county health department, sheriff’s office and city council members about five years ago.

“I wanted to get him help,” Ellis said, “and I wanted the rats to go away.”

Officials visited the house repeatedly and told Stone to stop feeding the rats, clean up his property and hire a pest control company, said Hilary Karasz, a spokeswoman for Public Health — Seattle & King County.

Investigators sent letters, imposed fines, obtained a lien on the house and eventually won a judgment that now exceeds $220,000, but Stone never responded, Karasz said.

Health workers must obtain permission to go inside the house, which may require going to court since Stone has no known relatives.

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