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Woman found in cluttered Worth home died of heart disease

A broom sits with other odds and ends under trees of a home filled with garbage in the 10800 block of Oak Park Avenue in Worth, Illinois, Wednesday, February, 15, 2012. The woman who lived there was found dead. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

–When Margareta Scheibe grew up in war-torn Germany during World War II, things were hard to come by.

That might explain why she eventually became a hoarder, her son Bill Scheibe said Wednesday. She would never buy one item if she could buy 10, and nothing got thrown out.

The family’s home in Worth got so bad that after Bill moved out 20 years ago, he did not set foot inside again.

Under piles of trash that filled room after room, Mrs. Scheibe’s decomposed body was found Tuesday by Worth police doing a well-being check. The medical examiner’s office ruled Wednesday that heart disease killed the 72-year-old woman. It was not clear how long she had been dead, but Bill Scheibe said parishioners at his mother’s church told police they had not seen her in about a month.

Scheibe, 43, of Joliet, one of three sons, said his mother was “as smart as a whip” but she lived as though she was always preparing for another war.

“It started when I was a kid, and it got worse as I got older. But it was never to this degree,” said Scheibe, a former longtime sports columnist for the Joliet Herald-News. “My mom was a wonderful woman – she’s my mother – but she was also a very, very, very difficult person to deal with at times. Stubborn.”

Scheibe said a cousin in Kenosha, Wis., called him Friday and said Mrs. Scheibe’s sister had not heard from her in three or four weeks. Bill Scheibe said he then tried to call his mother and got no answer, so he went to her home in the 10800 block of South Oak Park Avenue on Saturday and had an uncomfortable conversation with his brother, Frank, 46, who lived with their mother.

“I didn’t like how the conversation went, so I immediately went to the Worth police,” Scheibe said.

He said police visited the house three times Saturday but were unable to find Mrs. Scheibe.

When they returned to search Tuesday, they found her body, he said.

A source said the home was filled with trash, and the body was found buried underneath. Bill Scheibe said his father, Frank, died on Christmas Eve 2010.

Scheibe declined to talk about the alleged collection of trash but said he had not been inside the house in 20 years.

“If you grew up with a hoarder, would you want to go back?” he said. “You love the people, but would you go back?”

He said he last talked to his mother about six weeks ago.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire, Susan DeMar Lafferty