Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Daughter lived with mother’s corpse for three years

The apartment building where Spira and her mother lived

It’s a story that reminds us of good (bad, really) old days Brooklyn, before the NYC borough became the global center of all that is hip and fashionable and a popular name for children. A Brooklyn where sometimes an apartment next door might contain a daughter living in filth with the corpse of her mother, sometimes propping the skeleton up to dine with, other times napping next to the corpse, and of course, dressing in the deceased’s clothes from time to time.

And that’s exactly what emergency workers discovered in a Borough Park apartment building. Chava Spira, 28, was reclusive except for the occasional bought of unintelligible screaming, neighbors say. Her mother passed away two or three years ago in the apartment. Instead of calling authorities, she stayed there and lived with the corpse.

Finally, a leak from Spira’s apartment into the lobby prompted the building to call authorities to gain access to the apartment. Spira refused to let anyone in, so the emergency workers broke the door down.

What they found was Spira, disheveled, sitting in feet of piled-up trash. They also reported a horrible stench coming from the apartment. Spira threatened to kill herself leading to a standoff with authorities. At some point, Spira’s aunt aunt Janis GellisĀ stopped by with food and mentioned that her niece didn’t live there alone, she lived with her mother, Susie Rosenthal, 61.

That’s when authorities began to dig through the trash and found Rosenthal’s decayed corpse. It was mostly bones — rats and rodents had eaten her flesh. Then they pieced together the strange behaviors between Spira and the corpse in the apartment.

Spira was transported by authorities to New York’s Maimonides Medical Center for a psychological evaluation.




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