2007_12_mail.jpgBrooklyn resident Christina Copeman became a recluse after the death of her husband 17 years ago, more so as she began to succumb to Alzheimer's disease. She wouldn't answer greetings from neighbors and eventually refused to come to the door when people knocked.

The full consequences of her isolation weren't realized until this week, when police broke down the door to her apartment and found her skeletal remains dressed, and wearing a coat and hat as if she were about to go out. She was curled in a fetal position and a medical exam determined that she succumbed to heart disease.

She had lain there for two years, slowly decomposing as friends and neighbors made occasional inquiries into her whereabouts. Neighbors called the police to report bad smells coming from Copeman's apartment, but when cops arrived they said they couldn't detect anything.

The grandmother's mail stacked up--eventually piling four feet high--but the block's mail carrier didn't make special note of it because he only delivered her a few letters a month. A building inspector came to investigate a report that her dwelling wasn't being properly maintained, but didn't bother to gain entry to the apartment before filing a report on a faulty roof as the source of a leak. Family members' calls to 311 were shunted off to different agencies, but never the right one that could have led to her discovery.

Copeman's nephew Peter Bishop says he knocked on his aunt's door 15 times over the last two years and called the cops repeatedly. This weekend he reported her missing and the police knocked down the woman's apartment door to find her fully clothed skeleton. An employee with the city's medical examiner's office said the scene wasn't gruesome, just sad.