Salt Lake police remain baffled over the death of an elderly woman last week.
Ethel Luckau, 88, was found dead Thursday in a bedroom of her home at 357 E. 17th South."I'm not betting at all on this one," homicide squad Sgt. Don Bell said Monday, explaining that there is no positive evidence to indicate whether the death was a homicide, natural or accidental.
One of the biggest problems, Bell said, is that the state medical examiner's office has been unable to determine a cause or manner of death. Tissue and toxicology tests, due by the end of the week, may shed additional light.
Bell said there are some strange circumstances surrounding Luckau's death. Likewise, there are just as many normal ones.
"I don't have any supporting evidence to show it might be a homicide. I don't have a break-in; I don't have a theft; I don't have an assault. But, on the other hand, I've got a dead woman and nobody can tell me why."
According to police reports, Luckau was last seen alive at her birthday party the night of Aug. 15. Relatives tried to contact her during the week but couldn't. About 6:30 p.m. Thursday, relatives entered the home and found Luckau's body.
A mortician called by relatives to the scene notified police, who became suspicious after learning the woman was in bed naked, a practice uncommon to her. She also had some bruising around her face and neck and a cut on an arm. There was some evidence of slight hemorrhaging in the eyes. The hemorrhaging and the bruising on her neck might indicate strangulation. But Bell said the bruising was slight and the hemorrhaging could have been caused by a "hard sneeze."
Luckau's house was immaculate, nothing was missing and there was no sign of forced entry or a struggle.
The sergeant discounted speculation that Luckau's death may be related to the July 1985 murder of Drucilla Ovaard, 81, whose body was found in the bathroom of her home at 1457 Logan Ave. Ovaard's body was taken to a mortuary, where the funeral director noticed suspicious marks on her neck. The director called the medical examiner, who determined the marks were of a ligature and ruled the death a strangulation. Ovaard had also been beaten and sexually assaulted.
Police had a suspect, but he was never charged for lack of evidence. That suspect, however, was recently paroled from Utah State Prison on unrelated offenses. Bell said that the suspect has been contacted and told police he had been within a block of Luckau's home on her birthday. There's no evidence, however, that the parolee had anything to do with Luckau's death, Bell said.
"The only similarities are that the victims are elderly women and that they they were found in their home dead. Period," said Bell.