Every once in a while I’ll come across a news item that I know will stay with me, probably, for the rest of my life. Mary Cerruti’s story is one of those. On the surface, it seems fairly simple.
In 2015, she went missing. Later that year, her Houston area house was foreclosed upon. In 2016, the house was renovated and put up for sale. In 2017, the new owners moved in. They’re the ones that found Mary’s bones in the wall.
The question is, how did they get there? Some people think it was foul play. But I can’t imagine someone killing an old woman, and then somehow dragging that dead weight up into the attic, only to stuff her in a hole that they wouldn’t have known was there in the first place.
I think the more simple answer is the more likely one. She was in the attic and fell into that hole, and got stuck in the area where her bones were found. A 61 year old woman living alone. A freak accident. A sad ending to a solitary life.
What I don’t get is, wasn’t the attic’s ladder down when the police inspected the house? Couldn’t they smell the decomposition? Rats did wind up devouring her flesh and leaving behind very little evidence, but they don’t work that quickly, do they? It’s just that she didn’t have enough loved ones to work up enough of a head of steam for the authorities to find her. There’s no way of knowing how long she was gone before anyone noticed.
Did she die instantly? I hope so, for her sake. I hate to think that she was stuck in there, injured, slowly dying of thirst and crying for help as she listened to her beloved cats starving to death on the other side of the wall. Please, God, let her have died instantly.
What really gets to me about this story, though, is the things I have learned about her through the collage of photographs that she left behind. I think we had a lot in common. We even look alike. Brown hair, glasses and all.
Like me, she was a homeowner. She was only 8 years older than I am. She lived with 8 cats, which would probably be my fate if I weren’t so allergic to them. Like me, she loved photography, and preferred to be alone. She also took pride in her house and seems to have kept up with the repairs herself. I could see myself living in that cozy little bungalow.
She watched in horror as the houses along her street got torn down and replaced by apartment buildings. She mourned the loss of each grand old tree. She even plucked up the courage to speak out at a city council meeting about it, for all the good it did. She refused to sell. And she hated all the construction noise. I would have reacted in the same exact way.
Here’s where we part company: In the photographs of the houses in her neighborhood that were subsequently demolished, she called one a “whore apartment” and another a “multi-Mexican crash pad.” While the writer in me appreciates creative descriptions, I find these sentiments unappealing, and kind of get why she was alone. She was also known to write the occasional incomprehensible letter, which makes me wonder about her mental health.
Still, I can relate to Mary a little too well for my own good. Because of that, it’s really unpleasant to contemplate such a strange and lonely death. I hope there are no rats in my future.
Even those of us living in cute little houses in very big cities may as well be on far flung islands. Our connections are becoming ever more remote. Note to self: reach out just a tiny bit more.