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Thrifty loner left box of bones

HUDSON — Otto Ullrich was a mystery in life.

He is even more of a mystery in death.

A year after Ullrich died at the age of 81, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said, human bones were found Friday on one of his old properties at 13029 Buoy Court.

The discovery was made by Ullrich's two nephews, deputies said, who inherited his Pasco County holdings.

Neighbors said Ullrich hoarded every cent and bathed in the canal out back. Yet he was far from poor.

He was a loner and hard to understand. But he never shied from asking for help.

Maybe he was a bit slow, one neighbor said. But he could be canny — and determined.

Neighbors couldn't believe how far he would bike as he scavenged throughout west Pasco for scrap metal.

His nephews were visiting from New Jersey to clean up their uncle's properties for sale.

Then Friday morning they started on the plain white shed sitting by the plain white mobile home.

"The last thing the two nephews thought they'd find," said sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin, "was some bones in a box."

• • •

Nephews Ralph Schwab and William Schwab Jr. called 911. They declined to comment through the Sheriff's Office.

Soon after, official-looking vehicles lined the street. A crime scene technician examined the shed. A medical examiner confirmed the bones were human. Cadaver dogs didn't find any more remains on the property. And TV crews set up video cameras as stunned residents in this canal neighborhood looked on.

The box was very old, Tobin said, as indicated by writing on the box and newspapers found inside. They date from 1972 to 1993.

The Sheriff's Office declined to reveal details about the remains. The medical examiner will determine all that, and if possible, a cause of death.

But deputies are running down the possibilities. There are no missing relatives or neighbors, Tobin said.

And they're checking to make sure Ullrich's two deceased wives are buried where they're supposed to be.

Cadaver dogs searched Ullrich's primary residence at 7810 Gulf Highlands Drive but found nothing, said deputies.

Both properties are unoccupied.

Neighbors said Ullrich was never violent. Records show he was never arrested in Florida.

The Sheriff's Office won't call it foul play and won't even call it a crime scene — despite all the yellow tape.

All deputies have is a mystery.

• • •

But then Ullrich, neighbors said, was a mystery.

"I always said he was like Howard Hughes," said Kevin Morgan, 48, who lives two houses down.

Ullrich shopped at thrift stores and liked free food. He wore uniforms from places he never worked at — like Burger King. But he had money. If he needed a new TV, Morgan said, he just had to go to the bank.

Ullrich spent his days looking for scrap metal and his nights cutting it up for sale. He'd balance 15-foot poles on his bike if he had to. Morgan said he once saw his elderly neighbor biking along the farthest corners in New Port Richey — 15 miles away. "That blew my mind," Morgan said.

But Ullrich didn't drive. He'd pester neighbors to haul his bounty so he could sell it.

• • •

Ullrich died of natural causes on June 19, 2007.

His obituary said that at the time of his death he had spent 40 years in Florida after leaving his native Wildwood, N.J.

He was a warehouse manager for Goodwill Industries. He belonged to First United Methodist Church in Hudson.

One wife, Geraldine Mae Ullrich, died in 2000 at the age of 83. She was buried in Florida. Another wife, Betty Ullrich, died in New Jersey and was laid to rest there.

He used to have a cat named Elizabeth, neighbors said. Ullrich cried as he petted it.

He was truly an eccentric, neighbors said, and maybe that's as good an answer as there is to the bones found in the shed.

"Knowing Otto," said Morgan's wife, Mary, 46, "he probably found the box somewhere and brought it home."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Thrifty loner left box of bones 07/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2008 7:19pm]
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