Bodies of Elderly Woman's Family Were in House for Years

Autopsies show siblings died as far back as the 1970s

Thursday, Jul 30, 2009  |  Updated 1:43 PM CDT
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 Bodies of Elderly Woman's Family Were in House for Years

Police found the bodies of three people, each covered with a blanket and in a separate room, inside this Evanston home.

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 From the outside, 90-year-old Margaret Bernstorff's Victorian home looked like any other in Evanston. But when authorities found the decayed bodies of her three siblings in the house, the house ceased being anything like this college community has ever seen.

The Cook County medical examiner's office said Bernstorff's sister Anita died in May at age 98; her brother, Frank died in 2003 at age 83; and another sister, Elaine, died in her 60s sometime in the late 1970s. The bodies, some covered with blankets, were found Friday in different rooms of the home.  At least two of the bodies were skeletons and the third was very badly decomposed, according to authorities.

Caroline Carlton, who lives across the street from the woman, said she last saw her neighbor passing out candy in the driveway on Halloween. Carlton said she had never been inside the house but from outside, it was well-maintained.

When Carlton moved in two years ago, she said she believed there were three people living there. She said recently she only saw the woman.

"She never ventured very far," Carlton said.

Another neighbor, who didn't want his name used, thought that perhaps the woman didn't know what to do when her siblings died.

"It could well be that she was not able to notify people or didn't quite understand," he said. "She isn't quite worldly."

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