Squatters in Las Vegas dismembered the body of a dead woman whose mummified body they found sitting in a chair in her home — and then buried it in the backyard before selling off her belongings, police said.
The remains of Lucille Payne, 82, were discovered in April by cops in a shallow grave in the backyard of the Shore Breeze Drive home that she bought in 1999, KLAS reported.
Investigators believe Payne died of natural causes in the residence in summer 2018, but her corpse sat in a chair until squatters discovered it earlier this year and took over her home. Payne had lived alone and had no close family, police told the station.
“After finding her, the decision was made between several people that they were going to dismember her body and bury her and then basically drain her finances and sell off her belongings fraudulently,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer said.
Payne’s home appeared to be vacant for years, neighbors said. Her bills had been set to autopay, so no one was notified of her death three years ago. Someone in April then tipped off cops to the home, where her mutilated body was discovered after neighbors spotted digging in the backyard, police said.
“She was not buried very deeply, and an officer started to move the dirt and found her arm inside a very shallow grave in the backyard,” Spencer continued. “Next door neighbors were able to confirm to us that they had heard digging over the previous couple of weeks.”
Cops initially believed Payne had been murdered and the Clark County coroner’s office ruled her death to be a homicide from blunt force trauma and sharp force injuries, but her manner of death has since been changed to undetermined, KLAS reported.
The suspected squatters had not been arrested as of Wednesday, but will likely face charges of fraud and improper burial of a body, KLAS reported.
One of several suspected squatters, meanwhile, has admitted to entering Payne’s home and then burying her body instead of reporting it, Spencer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Thursday.
Two primary squatters were involved, but several others were seen entering and leaving Payne’s home. An investigation is ongoing and cops have yet to release the identities of anyone involved in the gruesome case, the Review-Journal reported.
Cops told the newspaper Thursday they were trying to track down Payne’s next of kin.
“There’s a lot of people without family,” Spencer said. “Check on your neighbors. Because it is sad that she’d been there for so long and nobody had checked on her. People might not have family, but as a community, we need to check on our neighbors.”
Payne’s estate is now selling the home, KLAS reported.