Dual Tragedy Shocks Apartment Residents

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 07, 2008 - 05:01:00 PM

The body of a 44-year-old Berkeley man lay decomposing in his studio apartment for at least two weeks, while his aging mother, who suffers from dementia, remained inside, surrounded by an ever-growing mound of garbage bags. 

Deputy D. Sanchez of the Alameda County Coroner’s office identified the man as David Bateman. The cause of death remains undetermined, pending the outcome of toxicology tests—which are at least six to eight weeks away. 

The body was discovered by a concerned neighbor in a third-floor studio in the 36-unit building at 1915 Chestnut Street on Sept. 30. 

The neighbor said the dead man’s mother was found by another neighbor in a state of confusion and suffering from dehydration, and surrounded by at least 20 garbage bags, which were initially thought to be the source of the strong odor inside the apartment. “She went to check on her because no one had seen her for days,” said the caller. 

Asked about her son, the woman replied, “He’s asleep.” 

Only as the neighbor moved the bags did the body appear, prompting a call to 911. Police were the first to arrive, and saw to the mother’s hospitalization. 

“She was gone by the time we got there,” said Deputy Sanchez, who confirmed the neighbor’s report that she had been taken first to a local hospital and then to another facility in Sacramento, where a daughter lives. 

A neighbor said officers insisted on leaving the doorway to the apartment open while they ventilated the apartment. 

“We asked them not to, but they insisted. It still smells terrible,” said the neighbor. “We’re all burning incense like crazy.” 

Sanchez said that a time of death hadn’t been determined, though the body had been in the apartment for at least two weeks before its discovery. 

“It’s not like CSI where you can determine the time of death to the minute,” he said, referring to the popular three-show CBS-TV franchise. 

The neighbor said the dead man had cared for his mother, taking out the trash and doing her shopping. “She had a hard time even going to get her mail,” said the neighbor.