Neighbours knew 90-year-old Margaret Bernstorff's Evanston home was a mess, cluttered with old furniture and stacks of yellowing newspapers. But no one imagined that inside the colourful Victorian-era home on Judson Avenue were the decayed bodies of three siblings, one of whom died in the 1970s and another of whom died about six months ago.
The Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed yesterday that the dead included Bernstorff's sister Anita, who died in May at age 98; her brother, Frank, who died in 2003 at age 83; and another sister, Elaine, who died in her 60s sometime in the late 1970s. The bodies, some covered with blankets, were found on Friday in different rooms of the home.
It was determined that all three died of natural causes and police have not charged anyone with a crime. Bernstorff was unavailable for comment and has been placed in a senior care facility.
As investigators continued to gather information from the home, police and neighbours were left to wonder how a woman could apparently live for years inside a home with the decaying remains of family members.
"I'm shocked. I think we're all shocked," said Allan Redmond, an Evanston contractor who had become friendly with Margaret Bernstorff after doing repairs on her home. "A few weeks ago I asked her about her sister [Anita] because it had been a long time since I'd seen her. She said that her sister was sick and upstairs, but I couldn't have imagined something like this."
Some neighbours knew Margaret Bernstorff had once lived with relatives. But it had been years since anyone had seen her brother and months since they had seen or spoken with Anita, Redmond said. Given the horrid conditions inside her home, many were concerned that Margaret could no longer care for herself. Some neighbours occasionally checked in on Bernstorff, bringing food and groceries the woman didn't always warmly accept. "She could be stubborn and she didn't take help a lot of the time," Redmond said. (above taken from the Phantoms and Monsters website )