Walter Samaszko Jr. of Carson City, Nev., was a loner whose death went largely unnoticed. That changed when a crew sent to clean out his house found a fortune stashed away in the garage of his modest ranch-style home.
There were ammunition boxes stuffed with thousands of gold coins, from Austria, Mexico, Britain and the United States. There was enough gold to fill two wheelbarrows — more than $7.4 million worth.
"There was every kind of coin you could think of," said Alan Glover, the Carson City clerk and the public administrator of the estate who borrowed a neighbor's wheelbarrow to haul the treasure out.
City officials searched through records to find an heir: a substitute teacher in the San Francisco Bay area who a judge declared Tuesday was Samaszko's lone surviving first cousin.
The decision means Arlene Magdanz of San Rafael, Calif., is a millionaire. She didn't attend the hearing and, so far, has not said anything publicly about her newfound fortune.
Glover said she has left her apartment to stay in a secret location due to numerous requests from the news media for interviews. "She was so frazzled and so harassed," he said.
No one seemed to know Samaszko, 69, even though he had lived in his house since the 1960s. His mother lived with him until her death in 1992.
Samaszko's body was found in June after neighbors called authorities, though it was not clear what prompted them to do so. He had been dead of heart problems for at least a month, according to the coroner.
Officials don't know what he did for a living or how he earned the money used to buy the gold.