CORRECTION Corpse In House
Mark Courtney  /  AP
New Hanover County sheriff's detectives on Tuesday investigate the death of an elderly woman who is believed to have died in her home last spring. Her body was found on Tuesday after a call to authorities.
updated 12/16/2009 7:04:22 PM ET 2009-12-17T00:04:22

The body of an elderly woman remained in her bed for up to eight months even though caretakers paid daily visits to the house and kept it tidy, authorities said.

New Hanover County District Attorney Benjamin David told a Wednesday news conference that a concealment of death charge would be filed against a family member, although he declined to identify the person by name.

"There is no question it was known to the family and should have been communicated to law enforcement," said David. "This is not tolerated under North Carolina law and it is not tolerated by this law enforcement community."

Sheriff's deputies were investigating the suspicious death of Blanche Matilda Roth after the corpse was found in her suburban home in Wilmington, on the Atlantic coast, on Tuesday following a 911 call to authorities.

Deputy Charles Smith said Roth likely died in May, before her 88th birthday in September. Her body was found after the caller, whose identity was being withheld by authorities, reported that an elderly woman in the home was unconscious and not breathing.

Smith said caretakers had been going in and out of the house on a quiet cul-de-sac on a daily basis. He would not specify if the caretakers were family members but said they were not nurses.

Failure to report a death is a low-level felony in North Carolina. David said the person charged may not face jail time depending on any prior criminal record.

Autopsy completed
The sheriff's department Web site later listed the arrest of Amy Blanche Stewart, a 47-year-old resident of the same home. Her relationship to the dead woman was not immediately clear and the Web site did not specify a charge against her.

The family did not return a message left seeking comment Wednesday evening.

David said an autopsy was completed Wednesday but he declined to reveal its results. He did not rule out additional charges for abetting concealment of a death, a misdemeanor. He also said investigators were looking into Roth's financial records.

Smith said the residence was very well-kept. He said police hadn't received any calls requesting welfare checks on Roth.

"They were quiet and stayed to themselves all the time," neighbor Ray Taylor, 72, said of the home's residents.

Martin Pedersen, another neighbor, said he had no idea Roth had died. "You think they would have smelled it or something," Pedersen said.

Pedersen said four other family members, a married couple and two sons, lived in the house and that a younger son went to school every day.

Pedersen said the family was nice and the news surprised him. He used to see the elderly woman walking to the mailbox with another family member holding her arm. "They'd be laughing and everything else."

He couldn't recall when he last saw her.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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