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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just Eeeew

I'm passing up Stupid Criminal Saturday for a story that's just plain gross.

Search for Las Vegas woman called off after husband finds her body buried in home's clutter

LAS VEGAS — A four-month search for a missing Las Vegas woman came to a ghastly end this week when her husband found her corpse in their home amid a labyrinth of squalor that had been impassable even to search dogs.

Bill James apparently had no idea that the body of his pack-rat wife, Billie Jean, was under the same roof as he helped police scour the home and the Nevada desert for any sign of her. Then he spotted the feet of the body poking out of a floor-to-ceiling pile of junk Wednesday, revealing in shocking detail the woman’s penchant for hoarding.

Police say they searched the home several times — even using dogs from a unit that helped locate bodies at ground zero after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. But they were unable to find the body of amid the piles of clothes, knickknacks, trash and other junk.

“For our dogs to go through that house and not find something should be indicative of the tremendous environmental challenges they faced,” police spokesman Bill Cassell said.

Clark County Coroner’s office spokeswoman Jessica Coloma said it could take weeks to determine when and how the 67-year-old woman died. The husband has been cooperative throughout the investigation and quickly notified police of his discovery.

One thing is not in doubt about the case: Billie Jean James loved to hoard. It’s a behavior that has received new attention this year with two popular reality TV shows — “Hoarding: Buried Alive” and “Hoarders” — that chronicle the lives of people who live in absolute squalor because they cannot bring themselves to throw anything away.

A similar situation could be seen at the James’ home in a desert-front cul-de-sac near the Las Vegas Strip. In the driveway sits two huge trash bins that require industrial-sized trucks to haul them away. The front patio is filled with knickknacks including old chairs, smaller trash bins and a 10-foot basketball hoop.

Inside, Cassell said James’ piles of clutter left just small pathways to walk and strong odors that hindered their search — generated by animals, decomposing garbage, food, clothes and other stuff.

“If there had been any indication that there was a remote possibility that somebody was back underneath that stuff we would have taken the appropriate action,” Cassell said.

Sari Connolly, who walked dogs with James and her husband daily at a nearby park with a group of friends, said the woman bought things at thrift stores each day and accumulated them in the house.

“She became this hoarder person and she wouldn’t let anyone come in her house,” Connolly said.

Connolly said one of Billie Jean James’ closest friends once asked to use the bathroom at the home after a camping trip, but James wouldn’t let her in.

“It sounds like it was beyond control,” said Connolly, who had a big banner made to help find James during the search.

Approached at the home Thursday, Bill James declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter.

Cassell said initial reports had James last seen walking away from the house in late April. He said along with the dogs, police visited the house several times and searched the desert with a helicopter equipped with infrared detection.

Friends and family searched the nearby desert several times on foot, horseback and with all-terrain vehicles. They created a Facebook page to help coordinate efforts, while the family offered a $10,000 reward in hopes of finding a woman described as a peace activist who to loved hiking, camping and the arts.

Nine digital billboards publicized her search amid the bright lights of Las Vegas to draw attention the search, and Connolly said they hired someone to hold a banner in a spot near the home where a woman reported possibly seeing James.

“This was certainly something that was not glossed over,” Cassell said. “We did everything that we could.”

But Connolly said she and friends think police may have botched the search.

“I’m trying to figure out how a body couldn’t smell so bad — that’s what everyone’s saying,” she said. “It’s the million-dollar question right now.”

The case is not completely surprising given the fact that 2 to 5 percent of Americans are chronic hoarders, said Dr. David Tolin, a hoarding expert from Hartford Hospital who co-wrote “Buried in Treasures” to help people who compulsively collect things.

“Every year, there’s at least a few deaths that can be attributed to hoarding,” he said.

I can't even imagine. FOUR MONTHS??? Was her husband in the house the entire time??? I've watched some of the stories about hoarders, and sadly, I can kind of understand how it happens. I had a couple of rooms in our last house that were the dumping ground for things that I didn't feel like dealing with. There were piles of boxes all over the place. Luckily, I don't have nearly the storage space in the new house, so I'm forced to get rid of things and be more organized. I feel so bad for these people. Once you get into a point where your house is chaos, it's got to be terribly difficult to even figure out where to start to get rid of things. How sad that her life had to end like that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Don't get me wrong. I love Montana. And I will miss it. But I am sooooo excited to start our new adventure in life.

Pirate Munchkin and I actually arrived a month ago. But we had to go back to Montana this past weekend to get the last load of our things. It was raining the first time we crossed the state boarder back in June, so I wasn't able to get pictures that time. But with this past trip, I was able to stop and get the pictures I wanted.

Truth be told, it was a VERY hard trip, so when we crossed in to North Dakota, I actually got out of the truck and kissed the ground!

I'll update later about some of the difficult things we had to deal with over those three short days, but I just don't have the strength to deal with them right now.

But in other family news, I have to share the update on our baby. Monday, we had our first appointment with the new midwife. The whole family was able to be there for it, so we were all together when we got to hear the heartbeat! It was the greatest sound in the entire world! The baby was very squirmy and kept moving away from the doppler, but then it would move back. I've been a little nervous because I'm in the phase where I'm not really feeling movement yet, but I'm past all the first trimester symptoms. So, it was really nice to be able to hear the signs of life and know it was moving around in there. I'm still having a hard time believing this is real. I have waited a very long time for this baby.