VANDERGRIFT (KDKA) – An autopsy is underway after a veteran’s body was found in a barrel in Westmoreland County Tuesday.
Now, the man’s son is in jail, facing charges, but not for his father’s death.
According to the Westmoreland County Coroner Kennth Bacha, an autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht this morning at Carlow University showed that 59-year-old Dave F. Thomas died of unknown natural causes. The unknown was because there was severe decomposition of the body.
At six-feet tall, Thomas was malnourished and weighed only 120 pounds, the autopsy results showed. But there were no signs of trauma or foul play.
The coroner’s office reports Thomas may have died three to four weeks ago, around Memorial Day.
Thomas was found stuffed inside a 55-gallon barrel on Tuesday. Police said when his son was questioned about this, he was calm and cooperative.
After a neighbor called police, concerned that she had not seen Thomas for several weeks, officers arrived at the home at 301 Kennedy Avenue.
Thomas’ 31-year-old son, David J. Thomas, initially told police that his father was at a VA hospital. He then said his father may have left town.
While they were talking, officers smelled a strong odor. When they went to the basement, they soon found out why.
“The younger Thomas told police he hid the body because he wanted his father’s checks to continue coming,” Vandergrift Police Chief Joseph Caporali said.
According to the criminal complaint, he spent $3,400 of his father’s money.
“He apparently used his father’s bank card to access his father’s bank accounts,” Chief Caporali said. “He was accessing his checking account. At this point, that’s all we know.”
The investigation is far from over. At this point, it is still unclear how Thomas died and how long he had been in the barrel.
Currently, his son faces charges of abuse of a corpse, identity theft and fraud.
He is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on $55,000 cash bond.