Coroner: Lafayette man dead for months in home
A coroner says an 88-year-old Lafayette man was dead inside his home for nine months before authorities knew about his death.
Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt calls the case unique. Some neighbors say it's shocking. But whatever happened inside a house in the 800 block of Shawnee Drive in Lafayette remains a mystery that police say, could take weeks to figure out.
The Nativity scene on the front porch in June is the first clue that something at this home is out of the ordinary.
"She seemed a little unusual. She seemed a little crazy," said neighbor Bonnie Davies.
"She" is Ila Solomon, Gerald Gavan's wife of two years. The 88-year-old Gavan, known by friends as "Scooter," was found by police on the living room floor of the home May 3. The coroner says he was dead for at least nine months.
"For a year, kind of, the neighbors would talk. 'Where's Scooter? We haven't seen him'," said Davies.
His wife told neighbors her husband wasn't home.
"He's golfing in Florida, he's at the Grand Canyon, you'd hear all these stories about where he was and they were kind of hard to believe," said Davies.
Finally, an out-of-state friend asked police to investigate. That's when they found the badly-decomposed body in the home.
"If that man was dead in there for a long time, that's not right," said neighbor Jon Childes. "You deserve to be buried, your family deserves to know, your friends."
Gavan, acquaintances said, was a sharp dresser, a World War II veteran who was friendly and always willing to help out.
"He was a very fine man. And I'm just very disappointed and sad that he had that kind of an end, because he deserved to have his passing acknowledged in a very dignified manner and it was not," said Davies.
Lafayette Police say they are looking at financial records to see if, in fact, Gerald Gavan's wife was receiving pension or other payments even after his death. They are also waiting on toxicology reports to determine his cause of death.
At this point, no criminal charges have been filed.
Eyewitness News did reach out to Solomon, but she would not answer questions. She told the Lafayette Journal & Courier that her husband had been dead for five days, not nine months. She said dehumidifiers, rodents and flies accelerated the decomposition of Gavan's body enough in five days for an expert to think he'd been dead much longer.