FOUNTAIN, Colo. (KKTV) The previous occupant of a home in Fountain was found dead in her bed while the new owner was going through the house.
Investigators believe the previous occupant may have been dead inside the home for 16 months.
In hindsight, there were signs something was amiss: no one had seen the woman since shortly after her husband's death in April 2015. Newspapers were piling up on the front porch. No one came to the door when police did a welfare check last year A neighbor thought she noticed an odor.
"It's really sad...we were always hanging out and having barbecues, birthday parties, sitting outside having conversations. And there was a person in there," said Mary Solis.
The question on the minds of the residents who had unwittingly been going about their lives with as a woman died nearby: why wasn't more done?
The woman moved here from Germany many years ago with her husband, who she met while on deployment there. The husband died last April and within a month, neighbors called police because they hadn't seen her out and about.
Fountain police were called to check on a woman more than a year before her body was found.
"They came through and did a wellness check but they didn't want to break down a door," said neighbor Gus Marquez.
According to a police report, all doors were locked and they couldn't see into any of the windows. When no one answered the door, they left.
It was the only welfare check done at the home.
Investigators say paperwork and calendars in the home led them to believe she may have been dead for 16 months.
Danielle Kreutter "What sort of limitations do officers have as far as the distance they can go to check on someone's welfare?
11 News sat down with Fountain police to see why more wasn't done when neighbors initially called them out.
"Unless there's an exigent circumstance, such as: there's a fire, there are screams or sounds of a disturbance coming from inside the house, there's an extreme foul odor coming from inside the house that we can detect. Officers won't kick down a door because everyone has a right to policy," said Lt. Brian Pearson with the Fountain Police Department.
Pearson explained how a welfare check is conducted.
"We often go to the residence, we'll knock on the door, we'll contact the communications center if we don't get an answer, have the communication center see if they can locate a recent phone number.
"We'll also do our best to make our way around the house to see if there's an open window we can look through to see if something is wrong inside the house. Many times people have their blinds shut and so forth, so we can't see inside.
"We just can't go around kicking people's doors down to check the welfare. ... Our powers are really limited on what we can do based on the Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, as far as just going into someone's house without authorization."
Lt. Pearson said officers would have followed up again if someone called again, but no one did. Other than that, police typically can't break into homes for a welfare check.
Some neighbors said for the last year they assumed the woman had moved back to Germany and were upset to hear she had been inside the home the whole time.
11 News spoke to the woman's mother-in-law from out of state, who said the woman did not have any family in the United States. The mother-in-law lost contact with the woman shortly after the husband's death.
Police said they don't suspect anything suspicious in this case.
The man who found the woman inside, Hootan Emami, found her in the master bedroom after recently purchasing the foreclosed home in an auction.
It's something he'll never forget.
"I get one step closer. Then, at that point, you could really see that it was a dead body. She was facing me."