Death of elderly man in house without heat under investigation

Greg Sowinski

January 9, 2014

BATH TOWNSHIP — An elderly man is dead after falling victim to hypothermia in his home, which had no heat.

Gwendolyn Shaw found her 75-year-old husband, William Shaw, unresponsive but breathing inside a room in a house at 2845 N. Cool Road. He was found pinned between a bed and table, Allen County Sheriff Crish said.

William Shaw was taken to Lima Memorial Health System, where he was pronounced dead, Crish said.

Allen County Coroner Gary Beasley said there will not be an autopsy. He said it was clear William Shaw suffered from hypothermia that led to an irregular heart beat, ultimately causing his death.

“I consider this a weather-involved death,” Beasley said.

Gwendolyn Shaw called 911 at 1:18 a.m. Wednesday saying she found her husband unresponsive. Deputies and emergency responders arriving at the home found the conditions unsuitable to live in, Crish said.

The conditions inside the house, even if it had heat, were not livable, Crish said. The house in rural Bath Township had no running water. It also had a hole in the roof. There were numerous spots on the ceiling caused by water leaks.

The couple was using an electric space heater plugged into the wall to provide heat to the home, although Crish said the house was very cold inside.

Detectives will investigate the case, and that includes learning why the couple only had a space heater for heat and what happened to the previous heating source, Crish said.

Gwendolyn Shaw told a deputy there had been no running water for about three months, Crish said.

It's likely, given the location of the home, that it had a well at some point, Crish said.

The Allen County Auditor's Office listed the home owner as Leona J. Connaughton of 1918 W. Elm St. in Lima. The Auditor's office listed “no heat” as the heating source.

The two-story house has 1,964 square feet and was built in 1920, according to auditor's office records.

Gwendolyn Shaw also was taken to the hospital due to poor health conditions, Crish said.

Crish said the incident highlights the need to check on the elderly to make sure they are OK, especially when temperatures are very low or very high.