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Posted at 10:39 PM ET, 10/18/2010

Report of woman's death investigated

By Washington Post editors

Update: An 89-year-old Maryland woman died over the weekend after a bizarre and grisly series of events in which she was presumed to have died in her house -- until someone sent to collect her body realized she was alive.

According to accounts from a neighbor and authorities, police had found the woman, identified as Ruth Johnson, on a floor in her home in the Severna Park area of Anne Arundel County on Oct. 1, after neighbors became concerned for her welfare.

Based on the accounts, Johnson lived alone on Ledbury Road, and it seemed clear to the officers who were initially sent to the house that she had died. County police said Monday that they were troubled by the matter and would investigate.

Johnson had provided for her body to be donated to science, and a representative of the state board that accepts such donations was sent to the house.

A neighbor who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter recalled standing outside in the evening when the man came out.

"Where are you taking her?" the neighbor said she asked.

"We're not taking her anyplace," the neighbor said she was told. "She's alive."

According to the neighbor, the man who had come for the body said he had seen Johnson's arm move.

He also told her that Johnson had appeared to exhale. That, the neighbor was told, was not unusual for a deceased person. But then, the neighbor said, the man said she inhaled, and that was described as a sign of life.

The woman was taken to a hospital, where the neighbor visited her. "She was on oxygen, breathing very roughly," seemingly asleep, the neighbor said. "She was not conscious."

Johnson was transferred to a hospice, where she died Saturday, said Ronn Wade, director of the state anatomy board, which administers the donation program.

The neighbor said Johnson was a private person whose husband had died in the past year. Neighbors tried to look out for her without being intrusive, the neighbor said. They decided to call authorities when newspapers began accumulating in a box at her house.

A police officer "went in and came out and said yes, in fact, she had passed," the neighbor said.

In a statement sent to the Eye on Annapolis Web site, county police officials said personnel are "expected to render aid to ill, injured or unconscious persons" until medical personnel can take over.

Calling the initial facts of the incident "deeply disturbing," Col. James Teare Sr., the county police chief, said he was taking the matter seriously.

--Martin Weil

Previous post: Severna Park woman dies after being erroneously presumed dead on Oct. 1

An 89-year-old Maryland woman died over the weekend after a bizarre and grisly series of events in which she was presumed to have died in her house - until someone sent to collect her body realized she was still alive.

--Martin Weil


Previous post:
Anne Arundel County’s police chief has ordered an investigation into an erroneous report by officers that an 89-year-old Severna Park woman was dead.

Police were called to check on Ruth Johnson on Oct. 1. Officers found her blue and not breathing on her bathroom floor but did not check for a pulse. Instead, they called Johnson’s adult son and told him his mother was dead.

Three hours later, a State Anatomy Board employee arrived to collect the body and noticed Johnson was alive.

Police chief James Teare says the facts of the case are “deeply disturbing” and that he’s demanding a thorough investigation. The police department notes in a statement that officers are trained to provide medical aid to ill or injured people until paramedics or doctors arrive.

-- Associated Press

Md. woman thought dead is alive
10:02 a.m.

A Maryland woman police reported dead after finding her blue and not breathing in her home was actually alive.

Police were called to check on 89-year-old Ruth Shillinglaw Johnson on Oct. 1. According to a report, officers found her motionless on her bathroom floor in her Severna Park home, and one officer noted an odor "similar to a decomposition smell."

But officers did not check for a pulse. Instead, they called Johnson's adult son and told him his mother was dead. The man said Johnson planned to donate her body to science. A State Anatomy Board employee arriving to take the body three hours later heard Johnson take a deep breath and saw her move her arm.

Johnson was rushed to a hospital. She was discharged Wednesday. Neighbors said she has been moved to a hospice.

-- Associated Press

By Washington Post editors  | October 18, 2010; 10:39 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland  
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Comments

That decomposing smell was old person in need of a bath. Not dead person.

Posted by: ged0386 | October 18, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

you have got to be joking. The officers didn't check for a pulse? Have they gone through ANY sort of medical training? I mean, they have to in order to grad from the academy.


That decomposing smell was your brain, officer.

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | October 18, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This is a great reason why the cops should always call for a medic unless there are obvious signs of morbidity (decapitation,advanced decomposition, etc.). Smell doesn't count (people have bowel movements and some with medical disorders have foul odors all of the time).
Even if the cop had attempted to take a radial pulse, it is sometimes very difficult to detect-- especially in older people. Let the medics attach an EKG and make the call.

Posted by: MdLaw | October 18, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Cops = IDIOTS

Posted by: DCFanatic | October 18, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Cops = IDIOTS

Posted by: DCFanatic | October 18, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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