Eighty-year-old Cecylia Opilka lived with her son Ronald in a three-story townhome in Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood.
That is, until around December of last year, when authorities believed she died of natural causes and was buried in the floor-to-ceiling garbage that fills the home.
Neighbors reported that they hadn't seen the elder Opilka in some time, according to WGN-TV, so they asked authorities to check on her at her home. Workers could barely force the door open, so full was the residence of debris.
Her son Ronald, 43, who continued living in the home, was interviewed by officers on the scene; police apparently believe that he knew his mother was dead, but may not have had the mental capacity to realize he should have called the authorities, a police sergeant told WLS.
When asked for identification, he reached into a pocket for his wallet and a bag of marijuana fell out, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He has been arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession.
The woman and her son were both reportedly compulsive hoarders, victims of a condition that causes sufferers to gather possessions in their home. Hoarding can have dangerous results: just last summer, a 79-year-old woman in suburban Skokie, Illinois was found dead in her garbage-filled home, and firefighters had to cut a hole in the roof to extract her body. Television shows like A&E's "Hoarders" and the TLC series "Hoarding: Buried Alive" have also popularized the dangers of the condition.