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No foul play suspected in death of Navy veteran found in apartment after 3 years

"The way he was found was indicative that it was a medical condition," said Detective Pete Schulte of the DeSoto Police Department, which is investigating the case.

A Navy veteran whose body was found in his Texas apartment earlier this month after three years may have died from a medical condition, authorities said.

Ronald Wayne White was discovered on the floor between the living room and kitchen of his apartment in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto on Nov. 12.

"The way he was found was indicative that it was a medical condition," said Detective Pete Schulte of the DeSoto Police Department, which is investigating the case. Schulte and the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office said White had been dead for an “extended period of time.”

“When we got there, all the windows were tightly sealed and locked,” Schulte said. “There were no signs of forced entry.”

Ronald Wayne White.Courtesy Doris Stevens

The apartment was very orderly, furnished and had “nice things” of value, Schulte told NBC News Monday night. There was no indication anything had been rummaged through. “If this had been a robbery, there would have been signs of it. Our belief is that it was a medical condition that caused his death.”

There were no apparent lacerations or gunshot wounds to White’s body, the detective said. He would have been 51 years old at the time of his death.

Unopened diabetes medication that had just been picked up from a pharmacy was also found in the apartment, according to Schulte.

White lived in a corner apartment on the top floor of a three-story apartment building. His apartment was locked with a deadbolt and there was no odor in the hallway, Schulte said. “Surprisingly, these apartments were well insulated.”

Smell, he added, usually travels up, not down, so any odor within the apartment likely escaped through the roof.

What finally led maintenance workers to White's apartment was an investigation into why it showed no water usage, Schulte said.

Investigators believe White died a short time after moving into the DeSoto Town Center Apartments in November 2016, the same month his mother said she last spoke with him. He had a month-to-month lease and his rent was withdrawn from an account linked to his Navy retirement, Schulte said.

Doris Stevens, 70, previously told NBC News she did not know her son had an apartment in DeSoto, otherwise she would have tried to visit him and access it when she did not hear from him in April 2017 on his birthday. She said the two were close and that although White, who worked as an independent defense contractor, traveled often, they never went an extended period of time without speaking. White retired from the Navy as a senior chief petty officer in 2004, his mother said.

Stevens said White was single, had been divorced about 20 years and had two adult children. He had recently sold his home in Glenn Heights, about 20 miles from Dallas, and planned to move to the Philippines in November 2016.

Stevens said she contacted the Glenn Heights and Dallas police departments for years to no avail to try to find out what happened to her. She said police refused to take a missing person report for White because he was an adult. According to Schulte, Texas law does not require a police department to file a missing person report.

Schulte said this case ranks among the strangest of those he has encountered in his 20-year career as a police officer. A number of factors went into White’s body going undiscovered, he said. Investigators looked up the weather in DeSoto at the time White was last heard from in November 2016 and there was a cold front in that area.

"It was very cold inside the apartment," Schulte said. "Either he had the central air turned off or he didn’t have electricity so if it had been really cold in there it would have acted like a refrigerator and it would have minimized any evidence that someone had died in that apartment."

White's pickup truck was in a DeSoto Town Center parking garage and was not reported as suspicious, Schulte said. It is common for some residents to have multiple vehicles and to store one.

White had only lived in the apartment for two to three weeks, which would explain why it was not publicly listed and why no neighbors reported anything amiss, Schulte said.

Stevens believes whatever happened to her son occurred between November and December 2016.

Authorities are awaiting the official autopsy results, which could take up to 90 days, and the medical examiner’s findings on the cause of death.

Stevens said it breaks her heart to think that her son died in the apartment complex without her knowing he even lived there. Investigators hope the discovery of White's body will help to put her mind at ease.

“I think it is helpful for her to know he wasn’t murdered,” Schulte said. “But we would still like to know what happened so we could give the family the closure they deserve.”