Coroner: Body in barrel was man, 59, who died of natural causes

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A Westmoreland County man found dead Tuesday inside a plastic barrel in his basement died of natural causes, Coroner Ken Bacha said today.

An autopsy for David F. Thomas, 59, of East Vandergrift, showed no signs of trauma or foul play, the coroner said, adding that he may have died from some type of cardiac event or another unknown cause.

Forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht performed the examination.

The man’s son, David J. Thomas, 31, was charged late Tuesday with felony counts of identity theft and access device fraud, and abuse of a corpse, a misdemeanor.

He told police that he hid his father’s body because he wanted his father’s checks to continue coming, had no other income and used the excess money, after paying bills, to buy drugs for his addiction, according to a criminal complaint that county Detective John Clark filed.

Officers first went to the home late Tuesday morning, after a neighbor asked police to check on the elder Mr. Thomas, a disabled veteran. The neighbor hadn’t seen the man in several weeks and noted that his son had a blue barrel delivered to the home about two weeks ago, the complaint said.

When police arrived, they smelled a bad odor coming from inside the home when the younger Mr. Thomas opened the door, police wrote in the complaint.

He led officers to the basement and as he was handling the 55-gallon plastic drum, it toppled over and "part of the body of Dave F. Thomas slid out onto the basement floor,” the detective wrote.

The younger Mr. Thomas is in the Westmoreland County Prison on $55,000 bail, awaiting a July 8 preliminary hearing.

First Published June 25, 2014 12:00 AM

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