Automatic bill paying is extolled by many who think that it is a wonderful and convenient system. However ...
Man lay dead in bed for two years
Condo fees and bills were still being paid
Body finally found in mummified state
WINNIPEG—His telephone number was still listed in the telephone directory and his condominium fees and bills were automatically being withdrawn from his bank account.
No one knew Jim Sulkers had died in his bed almost two years ago.
Neighbour Sam Shuster said residents in the complex often wondered where the man they knew only as Jim had gone, but were told his condominium fees were still being paid.
"How can that happen, for God's sake. Two years!" Shuster said yesterday of the man who had been a resident in the building since the mid-1980s.
"I used to ask the president of the board of directors where in the hell is he? She said all she knew was the bank gets the monthly money so we don't worry about it."
Sulkers' remains were discovered Wednesday. Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, determined he had died of natural causes.
Sulkers, believed to be in his 50s, had multiple sclerosis. Balachandra said there were no signs of trauma and he was able to quickly rule out homicide, suicide or accident as a cause of death. But because the body was in a mummified state, he could not determine an exact cause.
He said a newspaper dated Nov. 21, 2002, was found in the man's apartment and a wall calendar was opened to November 2002 — evidence the man died nearly two years ago.
A cousin, Kim Dyck of Winnipeg, said she lost contact with the man after his mother died about 10 years ago, but relatives had attempted to make contact with Sulkers last summer when they were in the city for a wedding.
"They knocked on his door and he didn't answer," she said. "You assume he isn't home. You certainly don't assume he's dead."
She said the man's bills must have been covered by a pension cheque automatically deposited into his bank account.
Neighbours said Sulkers' mailbox had become full several times and was always emptied by a letter carrier.
Canada Post spokesman Brian Garagan said letter carriers are required to clear full mailboxes and inform a supervisor, who calls the condo owner. He said the corporation was trying to determine if that policy was followed.
He said Sulkers' mail delivery was halted at some point but he wasn't sure when. He said he would be talking to the letter carrier on the route.
Marcel Baril, executive director of the Family Centre in Winnipeg, called the situation bizarre and sad. "It's odd that we live in a society where technology can take care of our affairs like that, even if we passed away two years ago, and nobody's noticed."
A spokeswoman for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada said the disease itself was not fatal but complications could be.
The article doesn't explain what occurred to cause someone to enter Mr. Sulkers's apartment and discover the body. Maybe the money ran out?