LORAIN — A 60-year-old woman was found dead in an abandoned house Wednesday morning.
She was found in 2133 Elyria Ave. by Housing Inspector Chris Yates, according to Lorain Police Capt. Mike Failing. Failing said Yates was checking vacant buildings in the city to make sure no one was in them during the subzero temperatures.
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans said she was found about 9 a.m. Wednesday. He said it appears the woman died of hypothermia and he was told she had been squatting in the abandoned house for months or longer and had died within “the last day or two.” She was the only weather-related death he had been called for as of Wednesday afternoon.
“When it gets this cold this is terrible for the homeless,” Evans said. “There’s no way to warm yourself up — I mean I’m just outside for 15 minutes and all bundled and I feel cold because my car was reading minus 5 and then according to the weather thing it’s minus 30 with the wind chill. There’s just no way if you’re not near a heat source that you can survive for very long out in weather like this.”
Evans said the woman’s name is not being released, as police have not located or notified her family.
He said the homeless, as well as the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart and lung problems are at an increased risk in the lower temperatures.
“If you’ve been out, you know it just takes a few minutes breathing in that cold air and it’ll send your lungs into spasm and it overworks your heart, your heart has to work harder to try to keep you warm,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the only other death Evans had been called for was a suspected drug overdose. He said while the cold itself will not directly affect overdose antidotes like naloxone, the vials should be kept warm enough so they doesn’t freeze, he said.
Illicit drug or alcohol use can also put people at an increased risk of death, he said.
“Certainly if you’re in the cold and take too much medication you might have slept it off, you’re not going to sleep it off, you’re going to freeze,” he said. As for alcohol use, he said drinking dilates the blood vessels — while it makes the user feel warmer, they actually get colder because they can’t feel the temperatures as well.
The house the woman was found in is listed on the Lorain County Auditor’s website as a large two-story home with a basement owned by Rose Little. It has special assessments from the city for back taxes and delinquent utilities for the past 10 years. There are $3,902.13 in back taxes owed on the property, according to the auditor. A hearing regarding the property’s demolition was held June 21.
In the roughly nine years Evans has served as the county coroner, he said this is as cold as he’s ever seen it, and he has been concerned about the homeless population for the past few days if they didn’t find shelter.
“I was worried (this) was going to happen, and it did happen and I wouldn’t be shocked if we had more tragedy from this,” Evans said.
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