April 12, 2011 -- Two male twins who allegedly spent three months living alongside the corpse of their 89-year-old mother sit in jail today facing felony murder charges. Her decaying body was found Monday face-down in the entryway of the Houston home they shared.
Edward and Edwin Berndt, 49-year-old twins, reported that their mother, Sybil Berndt, died Jan. 13, three days after she endured a fall after interrupting the duo as they watched football. Edwin and Edward allegedly left their mother lying on the floor because they said they couldn't pay for medical treatment. Their mother was conscious and could speak for the first day after the fall, according to court documents.
But she did not receive medical attention, food or water, and died, according to police. Edwin Berndt told police he remembered the day his mother died, because it was one day after her 89th birthday, according to the court documents.
The brothers said they didn't call police because they were afraid they'd go to jail and "didn't have the money to bury her," according the court documents. But police said they found Berndt's bank statements in the home showing account balances of about $700,000.
A police officer was dispatched to the family home Monday, following a call from a neighbor who reported that Sybil Berndt had not been seen since January. That's when the officer found the body.
"I had called her and left messages, and she had never returned messages," a neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, told KHOU local news. "Then somebody had said she's gone to Florida. But then they saw the boys outside."
Edwin Berndt answered the door when the police officer arrived and initially told the officer everything was fine and police were not needed, according to court documents. He then allowed the officer to enter the house, and his mother's corpse was visible in an "extended state of decomposition," according to police, who described the house's condition as "deplorable" and smelling terribly. Court documents also stated that bugs were found around the body, which was naked except for a nightgown pulled up under the arms.
'Never Seen a Scene Like This'
"I've never seen a scene like this in 17 years," Houston Police homicide investigator J.R. Johnston told KHOU Monday night from the scene. "As to why, at this point it's a big unknown."
Claire Kennedy, a communications specialist in the district clerk's office, said she expected a lot of interest in the case because the men are twins. Kennedy said she was surprised when she heard about the case, and that it was unlike anything she had ever heard of.
"I found it really heartbreaking," she said.
The twins are due in 339th Criminal Count in Houston Wednesday and have not yet been assigned an attorney.