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Used One Light Bulb, Shut Off Gas : $188,000 at His Side, Recluse Freezes to Death

January 09, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON, Pa. — An 89-year-old recluse who froze to death in his unheated home within feet of more than $188,000 in cash had willed more than $500,000 to a church he seldom attended, officials said today.

"I can't understand why a person of his means would choose to live like that," Washington County Coroner Farrell Jackson said.

Joseph Heer had been dead for "at least a couple of days" when his body was found Dec. 31 in the icy house.

At Heer's request, gas service to the three-story brick house had been cut off two years ago. An electric space heater in the room where his body was found was unplugged.

Heer, who died of hypothermia, was found fully clothed in bed in the sitting room.

There was only one electric light bulb in the house and no television or radio.

Heer, whose only relatives are nieces and nephews, willed his estate to the Immaculate Conception Church of Washington.

Police found money stashed in an unlocked safe, a steel box under the bed and a steel box bolted to a table.

"It was in bags and envelopes. Some of the bills were very old and some were brand new. There was $1,000 in 50s in an envelope, $1,000 of 20s in another, other envelopes with $1,000 in each," the coroner said.

"Some were Social Security envelopes where he had just cashed the check, stuck the money in the envelope and put it away."

Heer's estate also included a bank account with a balance of $400,000.

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