Friday, March 7, 2014

What If You Died in Pontiac, Michigan Six Years Ago and Nobody Knew?

What if you died in Pontiac, Michigan and Nobody Knew? What if they gave a war and no one came? What if you died in Pontiac, Michigan six years ago, and nobody knew? What if you died six years ago in Pontiac, Michigan and your neighbors didn’t know? The mummified body of Pia Farrenkopf was found in the back seat of her green 2003 Jeep Liberty in her closed garage. The key was in the ignition, but in the off position with gas in the engine so it probably wasn’t a suicide. She was dressed in a winter jacket and jeans so she probably did not freeze to death. Pia just laid in the Jeep for ever. Not a neighbor asked a question. This is Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac is not Southern California where you don’t necessarily know your neighbors. Pontiac is not New York City where people don’t want to get involved. Pontiac is not Detroit, where the police cannot respond to every crime. Pontiac is the home of abandoned GM factories, the dying Silverdome, and an emergency manager. Pontiac though has a stable middle class. Pontiac still has pride. Pia came and went, often for weeks and months. Some neighbors thought she might be away. Residents abandoned homes in the Greater Detroit area when the economy collapsed six years ago, as did the real estate market. Some neighbors thought her house might be one of them. Yet the lawn was mowed and mail didn’t pile up. Therein lies a mystery worthy of CSI. A neighbor tended the lawn to maintain the appearance of the neighborhood. The residents have pride. Where was the mail? An employer never asked because Pia was self-employed. She was terminated as a contractor with Chrysler’s Financing Department in September 2008, prior to its termination. Another mystery: The electricity was still on in the house although the walls had black mold. She had over $54,000 in the bank when she died. Her bills, mortgage, utilities, and personal finances, were on autopay until the money ran out in March 2013. The bank commenced foreclosure proceedings. But why did the electricity remain on? An employee for a real estate management firm on behalf of the mortgage company went to the premises a few days ago to fix a hole in the garage roof when he discovered her body. Pia’s auto license expired in 2008. She received a ticker in October 2008 for failure to show proof of insurance. She missed the January 2009 court date. The time of death is estimated therefore to be late 2008. How did her death go unnoticed for over five years? Here’s my problem: How to write about Pia’s demise? I thought of being humorous, but this story is too sad. I thought of castigating the citizens of Pontiac, Michigan, but they have greater problems. I penned a little of each so this blog is disjointed. And now the answer came. Ariel Sanchez kidnapped Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus between 2002 and 2004 and held them captive in a Cleveland house until they were rescued on May 6, 2013. Pontiac is not to blame. It happens. But where was her family? I tell my students that family and health always come first. Where was Pia Farrenkopf’s family since October 2008? What if you did anywhere at any time and your family doesn't care?

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