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Mummified body found at house where couple died in fire

By Stacy Moore / Hi-Desert Star

YUCCA VALLEY - A cleaning crew found a decomposing body inside a wooden box Friday at a home on the 5100 block of Elata Road where an elderly couple died in a fire last month.

Sheriff's department spokeswoman Robin Haynal said housekeepers were going through the garage at the home when they found the human remains.

"We don't know who it is," said Haynal. "The body hasn't been identified and cause of death has yet to be determined."

A county coroner's report states the cleaning crew came across the box at about 12:15 p.m.

Sheriff's detectives converged at the house Friday afternoon, interviewing witnesses including the cleaning crew that found the remains.

An autopsy will be performed later tnext week to determine age, gender and cause of death, the coroner's office reported.

The house is where Virginia Beiser, 85, and Robert Adams, 84, died March 15 in a fire blamed on cigarette smoking.

Mary Kiste, a housecleaner for Beiser, said she arrived at the house in the morning and found the doors locked and the front window so blackened she couldn't see inside the home.

Going to the back of the house, she looked through a window and saw Adams slumped over in his wheelchair.

She called for help and the county fire department responded, finding Adams and Beiser dead.

A coroner's investigation found the fire was caused from Beiser's smoking in bed. She died from burns and inhaling smoke, while he died from smoke inhalation.

Kiste considered the matter finished until she got a telephone call from her daughter-in-law Friday saying the TV news was reporting a mummified body was found at the home.

Kiste said she had been in the home's garage before, but never would have guessed there was a body inside.

"The garage was almost full of stuff she (Beiser) owned," said Kiste.

Beiser had moved from an apartment in Yucca Valley to the house on Elata Road, which she owned and where Adams had been living, said Kiste.

Furniture, boxes and other items from her apartment were packed into the garage, along with bags of household trash that would accumulate, leaving a path where Kiste and other housekeepers would walk.

"I can't even recall seeing the box," said Kiste.

Kiste was not one of the housekeepers at the house Friday, but she said she knew the woman who opened the box to make the grisly discovery.

Kiste had heard the remains were pretty well mummified, but the woman who discovered it could see a ring on one of the fingers.

According to Kiste and the coroner's office, Beiser was confined to her bed. Kiste said the elderly woman had stopped eating three or four days before her death.

Adams could walk a few steps, but was mainly wheelchair bound, she said, and would get winded if he had to walk.