The most significant feature of Marina del Rey, a community of about 9,000 residents, is its Marina. The city is home to the largest man-made small boat harbor in the world. The Los Angeles Times has gone so far as to describe the harbor as being the most valuable resource in Los Angeles County.

The story of a recently retired Marina del Rey school teacher named Marilyn illustrates how anyone can face an unexpected and challenging turn of events in life that necessitate support, including professional assistance, from a number of sectors. Up until early this year, the most negative occurrence in Marilyn’s adult life had been a rather rough divorce from her husband. All of that changed not long after the New Year when Marilyn would discover the body of her ex-husband at his Marina del Rey home.

The Unattended Death of a Reclusive Retired Accountant

William, Marilyn’s husband, became something of a recluse somewhere along the way after he and Marilyn parted ways. He did remain in Marina del Rey after the couple divorced, renting a small house in the city.

Over time, and particularly after he retired after some 30 years working as an accountant, he cut himself off from many people. Marilyn and Bill had one child, a daughter, who he did maintain contact with over the phone. However, she lived in Chicago with her own family and, unlike Marilyn, William didn’t travel to see her. The daughter did make it to Marina del Rey for visits, more often than not over the Thanksgiving holiday.

A few days after the beginning of the year, the daughter made mention in a conversation with Marilyn that she hadn’t spoken with William over the phone for a couple of weeks. The daughter indicated that she’s called a few times, but had not connected with her father. Marilyn didn’t think there was a reason for concern. Marilyn hadn’t spoken with William either, but she really didn’t communicate with him very often.

And then Marilyn received an odd phone call. William had listed her as his emergency contact with his landlord. The landlord telephoned indicating that for the first time since William rented from the gentleman, William had failed to pay the rent. This scenario immediately sounded odd to Marilyn. If nothing else, her ex-husband was a meticulous accountant who always tended to bills in a timely manner.

Over the course of the next couple of days, Marilyn tried to reach her husband by phone. On the second day, she had an appointment near her husband’s apartment and made arrangements to meet the landlord at the residence. She suspected that her ex-husband had become more reclusive than even normal for him but didn’t suspect anything beyond her husband “hiding out” for one reason or another.

The landlord and Marilyn reached William’s house at about the same time. They walked to the front porch together. Directly upon climbing the steps and taking a couple of paces across the porch to the front door, a vague, unpleasant odor hit both of them at the same moment.

Discovering an Unattended Death

They knocked on the front door a couple of times, to no avail. Using his key, the landlord opened the front door. In a beat, a foul blast hit the two visitors, causing Marilyn to gag. They entered the home only to find the deteriorating body of a deceased William on the floor of the living room. The landlord understood the basic protocol associated with the discovery of an unattended death. He immediately called the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station by calling 911. The Sheriff’s Department oversees the investigation of unattended deaths in Marina del Rey.

Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station

13851 Fiji Way

Marina del Rey, California 90292

(310) 482-6000

Professional Help After Discovery of an Unattended Death

He escorted Marilyn out of the residence to await emergency personnel and to prevent exposure to harmful pathogens that can be present at the scene of a decomposing body. The landlord also understood that due to the nature of the human decomposition process, professional assistance was needed to address the presence of potentially dangerous biohazards associated with this unattended death. Exposure to blood, bodily fluids, other biological materials, and gases associated with human decomposition can result in infection by dangerous and even potentially deadly pathogens.

Ultimately, it was determined via forensics evaluation by the coroner’s office that William had died from a heart attack over two weeks before his unattended death was discovered. While the landlord made arrangements for biohazard cleanup at the residence, Marilyn sought out the professional help of her own to address the grief, guilt, and traumatic shock associated with the death of William and being one of the people who discovered his remains. She accessed a Marina del Rey area grief counselor and joined a local grief support group (that focused on traumatic losses) to assist her in dealing with the aftermath of the unattended death of her husband.

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