The Illinois woman who found her husband’s body inside a closet months after he vanished said she made the shocking discovery while she was looking for Christmas decorations to celebrate the holidays in his absence.
Jennifer Maedge, 49, reported her husband, Richard Maedge, 53, missing on April 27, but police came up empty until she opened the closet on Dec. 11.
“I know it may sound odd. I was just trying to figure out the best way to celebrate the holidays without knowing the whereabouts of my husband,” Maedge told People magazine.
“I had been contemplating that for weeks before I decided to put up some Christmas decorations, to put me more in the Christmas spirit and to honor my husband, in a way,” she said.
“The holidays last year were hard to celebrate while Rich’s disappearance was unsolved,” Maedge added.
She said she entered what she described as a closet-within-a-closet in her Troy home, where she shone a flashlight that revealed her husband’s mummified remains.
“It was pretty shocking,” said Maedge, who had been married to Richard for 20 years.
His death has been ruled a suicide and there were no signs of foul play, according to Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn.
“He had mental health issues in the past and he would get help for it,” Maedge told the mag. “And he told me that he knew the breaking point, and he would get help. So, this would be the most farfetched of anything — that he would actually go through with this.”
She added: “He never verbalized anything [like] he would take his life to me.”
Chief Deputy Coroner Kelly Rogers told KTVI that police noticed a “sewer-like” odor while they conducted a search.
A plumber who checked the stench described it as sewer gas and placed a cap on a pipe in the basement – which helped clear the air, Rogers said.
She described the residence as a “hoarder home.”
“‘Hoarder’ is a strong word, but he was more — I would consider, more of a pack rat. He didn’t want to get rid of anything,” Maedge told People.
“The smell did not take up the whole entire house, it was very, very confusing and everything, because there’s not a basement or anything, it’s more of a crawl space and a cellar,” she said.
“Plus, I have four dogs and a cat roaming around, so you get many different smells. And then also, my sinuses were bothering me at the time, too. So, you’re trying to figure things out and you’re getting confused at where it’s [coming from],” Maedge added.
Rogers said it may have been difficult to pinpoint the source of the small because the remains when found were in a mummified state.
“I was trying to keep an optimistic kind of outlook just in case he happened to be alive,” Maedge said.
“I mean, I always knew that there was a positive and a negative of being alive and being dead throughout the whole entire thing. But if he happened to be alive and I thought he was dead, I would’ve felt really guilty,” she said.
“I know he wouldn’t want me to dwell in his loss or his passing or anything,” she says, “so I just have to try to figure out how to move on,” Maedge added.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.