MIDDLEFIELD, Conn. (AP) -- A brother and sister who left their mother's corpse to rot in her ramshackle house may not be charged with a crime for keeping her death a secret for more than seven years.
While John and Diane Simmeck acknowledged they allowed Ann Simmeck's body to decompose and did nothing about it, the Connecticut law that makes failing to report a death a crime does not require private citizens to contact officials when a relative is discovered dead.
The statute only applies when a body has been officially reported dead.
"I'm not aware of any crime that would clearly apply to their conduct," Todd Fernow, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
"There really isn't anything that requires a regular citizen to report a death or dispose of a dead body in accordance with a procedure," Fernow told The Hartford Courant, in an article published Sunday.
A 100-page state police case file, recently released to the newspaper, details how the brother and sister made biannual trips to their mother's Middlefield home, stepping over her mummified remains on the floor.
Police believe Ann Simmeck died in late 1999 or early 2000. They discovered her body in June 2007 after another son who was estranged from his mother grew worried about her well-being. She was probably 72 when she died of natural causes.
Her remains were so badly decomposed that she was identified by comparing her DNA to one of the children's DNA.
After spending six months investigating, investigators applied for warrants charging John and Diane Simmeck with failing to report a death and improper disposal of a body. But Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford refused to sign them because he did not feel their actions "fit within the parameters of the crimes," according to state police reports.
"It's an odd set of facts," Fernow said. "I don't see the legislature doing a lot to create a statute for something like this because people don't expect this to happen every day."
John Simmeck Jr., in interviews with state police, said he didn't report his mother's death because "he was scared and in trouble with the law in both New Hampshire and Connecticut," according to police documents.
He is facing an identity theft charge in connection with his alleged use of his father's identity in 2003 to set up a cell phone account.
To protect the secret of his mother's death, Simmeck continued for years to pay property taxes on the house and the electric bill because the freezer was stuffed with food. Water was cut off to the house.
His sister, Diane Simmeck, could not provide police with a reasonable explanation for her actions.