HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The cause of death is undetermined for a person whose remains were found in the attic of a Houston home, Harris County Medical Examiner said Thursday. The cause of death was undetermined because the remains were skeletonized.
Those remains have sparked a mystery in Houston's Greater Heights neighborhood.
In March, when renters of the now freshly renovated bungalow at 610 Allston Street checked a loose board in the attic, they found skeletal remains. Police report them to be from an adult human.
Neighbors in the area question whether it could be the body of the former home owner, Mary Cerutti, who went missing several years ago.
Mary battled against gentrification as one of the only home owners on the street to refuse to sell her property to Trammel Crow Residential, the developers who've since built a massive apartment complex engulfing the block. It encompasses Mary's bungalow, and another small lot, on three sides.
In September of 2015, a missing person report listed Mary as not having been seen since winter that year.
By November 2015, property records show Mary's house was sold on foreclosure.
Neighbor Roxanne Davis says she knew Mary. They were both part of the group working against the apartment complex development in the area.
"Mary was the only neighbor who refused to move. Trammell Crow did offer to buy her out but she refused," said Davis.
Davis recalls driving Mary home from a hearing on the development. She says Mary was sweet, relatively quiet, and somewhat frail. Davis believes Mary lived alone.
Davis would often drive by to check on Mary. She helped Mary deal with several skirmishes with the contractors of the development as it built up around the home.
"When you have a neighbor who is compromised or vulnerable you want to keep an extra eye on them," said Davis.
Other neighbors passing the home said they'd heard Mary had moved away to live with a daughter. Some recalled seeing her snapping pictures of the construction workers and grumbling about the development before her disappearance.
When the skeletal remains were found, neighbors who knew Mary were quite alarmed by a certain detail in the report.
"There were some drugstore readers found in the wall with the bones, and those are the glasses I remember," said Davis, who points out the glasses can be seen in video footage of Mary speaking at the city property hearing.
As of Monday, investigators had yet to confirm the identity of the remains.
Davis believes Mary was too frail to get into the attic alone. Still, she cannot imagine who else's body would be in the home.
More than anything, neighbors want to know how the many contractors and workers who they had seen going in and out of the now renovated bungalow over several months could have not noticed something along the way.
"How can you sell a house with no one going up in the attic and seeing a loose board," asked Davis. "I don't understand how it's gone undiscovered for this long. I don't understand how a person could die and the smell not disseminate into the street. There seem to have been a lot of people who were in there. I don't understand."
FOX26 contacted the individual listed as having purchased the property through foreclosure, but received no comment.
An inquiry to Trammel Crow Residential regarding their knowledge of Mary Cerruti had not received a response as of March 7.
Davis says concerned neighbors have located an ex-husband of Mary's, and a possible cousin. No other relatives were known to live in the area.
The tenants now living in the property say they were as shocked as anyone to make the discovery. They said the remains were cleared from the home within an hour of being reported. As of March, they appeared to still be occupying the home. The tenants did not wish to make further comment.
Did you know Mary Cerruti? Do you have information on her whereabouts? Contact our reporter Kaitlin Monte on her Facebook page: Facebook.com/kaitlinmonte