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Two reclusive brothers, who live in a filthy home piled high with rubbish and excrement, are under investigation for potential homicide.
The garden of a suburban house just outside Chicago is being dug up after Michael and John Lelko told police that they had buried the bodies of their mother and sister.
They claimed that their mentally disturbed sister had pushed their mother down a flight of stairs in 2019, causing the elderly woman to suffer a fatal stroke.
However, the pair, who reportedly have physical and mental health issues, also told police that their sister died of Covid-19 in 2019 and that they had buried both women in the garden over concerns about spreading the virus.
This raised suspicions, as the first confirmed cases of the virus in the US, were only reported in January 2020.
The brothers hadn’t been seen for some time, and neighbours called police on Thursday, August 26 to request a welfare check.
When police arrived at the address on South Center Avenue in Lyons, some 14 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, they found the brothers living in filthy conditions, with bottles of urine stacked up and human faeces smeared on the walls.
The house had no working plumbing and several cats and dogs were running loose around the property.
"It was multiple litres of urine," Lyons Police Chief Thomas Herion told local news station ABC 7 Chicago.
"Every room, the front door, the backdoor were completely barricaded with debris [and] boxes."
He added: "I’ve never seen anything this bad. There were numerous bottles of urine; two-litre containers, five-litre containers.
"You come in and they’re just thrown about the house. There’s not a room in this house that I cannot … and I was in there personally, along with two other officers … that I could go into without stepping into something."
He said that while the brothers had not been arrested, the disappearance of their mother and sister was being treated as a crime.
"At this point, we just don’t know, but we treat every death investigation as a homicide because we can’t go backwards, right?"
"If we treat it as 'natural causes' and we don’t investigate any potential wrongdoing, it’s very difficult to undo what we’ve done."
Despite the brothers’ "confession" Chief Herion said he said he was keeping an open mind.
"Right now we don’t have a crime. Right now we don’t know whether their bodies are buried in the backyard or not," he said.
"This is just their statements."
One local, Martha Aranda Castaneda, told Fox 32 that one of the brothers hadn’t been outside the house in over a year.
The Lelkos were initially taken to a hospital for medical checks, before later being discharged and booked into a hotel,
As yet they have not been arrested or charged with any crime.
They were later discharged and put up in a hotel, but walked over to their house, still wearing blue hospital gowns, to speak to reporters after seeing news reports on television about the impending excavation in their backyard.
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