Reclusive woman may have been dead in Largo home for three years

A lawn care worker found Geneva Chambers lying dead in her bed. She would be 68 now.

Laura Morel | Times

A lawn care worker found Geneva Chambers lying dead in her bed. She would be 68 now.

LARGO — The neighbors thought Geneva Chambers had moved out.

Spiderwebs dangled from the corners of her red front door. Dead leaves littered the entryway. At night, lights never shone from the windows.

But Chambers has been home all along. She was lying dead on her bed, perhaps for as long as three years.

A lawn maintenance worker who saw a sliding glass door ajar at 1420 Alexander Way on Tuesday morning ventured inside.

He discovered Chambers' corpse and called 911.

Soon, detectives were trudging in and out of the house — probably more visitors than the home had seen in years. Chambers was a recluse, neighbors said, known for kicking neighbors off her property and rudely turning away a woman who offered her cookies.

"It was her own intention," said Frank Costa, who lives across the street. "She preferred to stay very reclusive and hostile."

Her cause of death is still pending. An autopsy Wednesday found no evidence of foul play, Largo police Lt. Stephen Slaughter said.

County property records show Chambers, who would be 68 if she were alive today, bought the home in November 2006. For several years, neighbors would see the garage door go up or hear gospel music coming from inside.

Two or three years ago, they said, all signs of Chambers disappeared. Rumors swirled that she had abandoned her home. When the grass in her front yard grew tall, residents volunteered to trim it.

Neighbors started walking on the sidewalk in front of her house again. Some had avoided doing so when she was there.

"It prevented the opportunity for her to come out and yell," neighbor Juan Fernandini said. "She was antisocial. Didn't really get along with anybody. There wasn't too many people that cared for her, that were concerned for her."

Records show that in 2009, Chambers' home went into foreclosure. Code enforcement officials plastered stickers on her house that read, "We found this property to be vacant/abandoned."

Neighbor Hilton Varanda, 59, moved into the house next door in October 2010.

"At that time, the house was empty," he said. "Nobody. No cars. Nothing."

After the lawn maintenance worker called 911 Tuesday morning, detectives quickly realized Chambers had been dead for a long time. Mail found in her home was more than a year old.

They are trying to determine when Chambers last had contact with others. They found a pawn transaction from April 2010 under her name. By June 2010, the electricity and water at the house were shut off.

Chambers was estranged from her family in Miami, Slaughter said. They could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"The big question in the air: why some friends and some relatives didn't try to contact her." Varanda, the neighbor, said. "Very sad situation. A very lonely person … What kind of life did she have?"

No one in the neighborhood knows.

Times staff researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157.

Reclusive woman may have been dead in Largo home for three years 08/14/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:33pm]

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