TOOELE, Utah — Police in Tooele are getting closer to solving the case of a man found dead in a freezer for more than 10 years.
Officers found Paul Mathers shortly after his wife died of natural causes in her Tooele retirement community. He would have been 69 years old today.
Investigators believe Jeanne Souron-Mathers, 75, left her husband dead in the freezer between February 4, 2009, and March 8, 2009. They found his body along with a notarized letter signed by Paul Mathers stating his wife did not kill him.
“It was notarized on December 2, 2008,” said Sgt. Jeremy Hansen of the Tooele Police Department. “We believe he had a terminal illness.”
The latest police timeline indicates Mathers was last seen on February 4, 2009, because of an appointment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Many of Souron-Mathers’ friends said they had never met her husband.
Evan Kline, who lives in the retirement community, described Jeanne Mathers as a sweet elderly woman who could not “hurt a fly.” He said his family knew she was going to die because she had recently quit receiving dialysis treatments.
“Jeanne was, by all appearances, a very nice person. Very friendly. We’ve talked to her quite a bit and took her to doctor appointments,” Kline said. “The story that — at least she was putting out — was her husband walked out on her.”
The investigation is still ongoing, and detectives have not ruled out homicide. The notarized letter has raised questions as to whether the couple planned to keep Mathers' death a secret so his wife could continue receiving his government benefits.
“I think he died and she kept him so she didn’t have to turn in his social security,” said James Kite, who lives in the retirement community. “It’s been crazy. I’ve never seen anything like what’s been going on here.”
“Based on what I know now, I’d have to say it was probably the plan, yeah, for her to keep the money because it was her only source of income,” Kline said. “I guess you could call it kind of smart — then again, crooks a lot of the time are smart.”
Tooele Police believe Souron-Mathers received at least $177,000 of government payouts.
“Yeah, I guess [it is smart],” Kite said. “It’s still creepy. I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment with my dead husband or my dead wife.”
“I’d have to wait and to see what they come up with on the handwriting, but at this point in time, my bet is [the letter is] probably legit,” Kline said. “My jaw hit the floor when I found out.”
Detectives have been able to interview the person responsible for notarizing the letter in 2008.
“She told the detective she didn’t read the note, she just stamped it and signed it,” Hansen said.
Police also added there are more pertinent details to the case contained within the letter, but that information is not being released at this time.