Police: Man lived with mother's corpse in apartment

Dr. Hess, Pima County's Chief Medical Examiner, said some evidence on a body may disappear as it decomposes.

Police: Man lived with mother's corpse in apartment

CREATED Feb 3, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A man living with his dead mother may seem like something out of the movie "Psycho," but police say the crime is very real.

Police arrested Christopher Aguilar on one count of abandonment/concealment of a body, after officers found his mother dead inside their apartment unit at the Santa Cruz Vista Apartments at 1240 W. Ajo Way.

Police have identified her as 47-year-old Carmelita Aguilar.

"The person was found in a bathtub, I believe, and may have either been bound or was found in some circumstance [for police] to believe she may not have died naturally," said Dr. Gregory Hess, Pima County's Chief Medical Examiner.

When officers arrived at the apartment, so much time had passed and the body was so badly decomposed that they couldn't figure out the gender of the body, much less the identity of the person, Tucson Police said.

"It's one unusual circumstance that piques our interest and causes us to look a little more into this incident," Sgt. Maria Hawke, a TPD spokesperson.

One neighbor said he saw Aguilar and his mother arguing a few times.

"He was an alright guy but I didn't really trust him [because of] the look in his eyes, his face, he started looking like he was going nuts," said Gilbert Vidal.

However, this isn't the only incident reminiscent of the character Norman Bates in "Psycho": Authorities said Tombstone author Timothy Fattig left his mother dead in her home for about a year. By the time they found her skeletal remains, there were no organs or skin to examine. Fattig did not face any charges.

Reporter Claire Doan asked whether the evidence dissipates when you leave the body there for a couple of weeks - if you hurt a person but don't break any of his or her bones.

"Yes, if they were decomposed to the point where you didn't have any soft tissue left to evaluate then that evidence would be lost. It's a matter of days or weeks, depending on the environment the person was kept in," Hess said.

He added that the decomposition of a body depends on various factors, including whether it is inside or outside, if animals or insects are around and the person's weight. 

"Bruises, contusions, scraps to the skin abrasions, some sharp force injuries - let's say a knife or a pair of scissors - may be difficult to interpret as the body decomposes," Hess continued.

However, police said the body - however crucial - is only one piece of evidence.

"We're going to examine any evidence that may be present at the scene where the body is found or the potential scene where a person may have been killed," Hawke said, adding that circumstantial evidence and witness accounts are crucial.

While detectives believe this is a homicide, they are still trying to determine whether Aguilar was involved in his mother's death before possibly bringing on more charges.