As his family and neighbors focused on rebuilding homes and lives battered by Hurricane Rita, few gave much thought to Larry Euglon's long absence.
"All the neighbors asked where Mr. Larry was," said Osborne Johnson, who lived across the street from Euglon for more than 20 years. "We decided he had evacuated with other people and didn't have the chance to come back."
In fact, he never left. The skeletal, mummified remains of the 51-year-old recluse were recently discovered lying on his bed inside his home, which had no major storm damage but was still enveloped by thick branches from two splintered oak trees.
Now people wonder why it took nearly 18 months for Euglon to be found in this southeast Texas city.
"I walked away with more questions than answers. You keep thinking why didn't someone notice this," said Jefferson County Justice of the Peace Vi McGinnis. "It has been the talk of the town."
Investigators believe Euglon died of natural causes, but can't tell if it happened before or after Rita. He apparently had been ill for some time before his death and lost considerable weight, but the exact nature of his illness is not known.
Some neighbors remember him turning down an offer of evacuation in the days before the storm made landfall at nearby Sabine Pass on September 24, 2005.
Dorothy Euglon remembered her nephew as a hard worker who told humorous stories about being a construction laborer and was nicknamed "Big Tank" because of his one-time weight problem.
"Knowing him, he thought he could ride the storm out," she said. "Now what did he die from? Could it have been fright? Could it have been a heart attack? With 120 mph winds tearing up your house, who knows. Only God knows."
Johnson, 73, said most people left the neighborhood before Rita and stayed away for weeks. When they returned, their focus was on repairing their homes -- not Euglon's whereabouts.
Police and fire officials concentrated on homes that sustained structural damage. Euglon's house had no such damage, so it wasn't checked.
His property gradually became an eyesore, with overgrown grass and scattered trash, and was about to be sold for unpaid property taxes.
A potential buyer inspecting the property on January 27 discovered Euglon's fully clothed body on his bed, atop the covers.
The interior of the house appeared undisturbed, covered by a thick layer of dust. The living room was still neatly arranged, and china plates and wine glasses still sat on the dining room table.
Some wonder why Euglon's family didn't check on him. He had a daughter, ex-wife and other relatives who lived in Beaumont.
But Dorothy Euglon, who lived less than a mile away on the same street, says criticism is unfair.
"You could have knocked on that door until hell freezes over and he was not going to let you in," she said. "He did it. Not the family. He disassociated himself and to this day I don't know why."
He shunned most human contact, only coming out of his home to walk around his neighborhood, usually with his head down, and often ran away when he met relatives on the street.
Zenja Hughes, Euglon's former sister-in-law, recalled seeing him dressed in winter clothes during hot weather and saying people were out to get him.
Johnson says no one is at fault in Euglon's death.
"But we are at fault of him not being found," he said. "I fault myself because living this close to him, I should have called the police or somebody and had a search made for him."
Story courtesy of CNN Newsource.