Here’s How HPD’s Detective on the Case Figured a Heights Apartment Opponent Ended Up Dead Inside the Wall of Her Allston St. Bungalow

Newly-released case files from the Houston Police Department include a investigator’s official best guess at how Mary Cerruti’s skeleton ended up in a 5 ft.-9 in. by 1 ft.-7 in. space between the walls of her bungalow: a plank in the attic collapsed, writes detective T. Fay, sending Cerruti down into the 8-and-a-half-foot tall opening where she became trapped and died. The photo above — one of 235 police took at the scene — shows the hole in the floorboards where her remains were found to the right of the attic door.

Cerruti, the former homeowner, was an opponent of the Yale at 6th apartments that eventually encircled her bungalow at 610 Allston St. On an afternoon last March — reports the Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall, who’s been all over the story as it’s developed — firefighters responding to a 911 call from the new renter who’d discovered the remains arrived at the address and busted open the wall from the house’s first floor. Fay, the detective, speculated that the spot in the wall housing the bones might once have been a linen closet, sealed off by renovations.

A missing person’s report filed 2 years earlier in 2015 — after Cerruti first disappeared — suggested that the remains were likely hers. But with the bones and a few other items as the only evidence police could recover from the scene, there wasn’t much for them to investigate. There were no signs of foul play at the bungalow, and no reason to believe someone was out to harm Cerruti. The only thing police had left to do was wait for forensic identification — which the medical examiner announced last month.

Photo: Houston Police Department via Emily Foxhall

A Hole in the Attic

17 Comment

  • I’m mystified as to how her remains remained undiscovered for so long. As anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of having a mouse die in an inaccessible area of a house knows, the odor is overwhelming and persistent.
    Now imagine that 3,000 dead mice were entombed in a wall. (The number is not arbitrary; estimated weight of a house mouse is .68 oz., and the weight of the deceased estimated at around 120 lbs.)
    Didn’t anyone enter the house and exclaim “Wow! It smells like 3,000 mice died in here!” (or words to that effect)?

  • The obvious answer is that no one entered the house! She was somewhat of a recluse and had lost touch with friends and family. It is so horrifying to think of her suffering and dying like that. And her much-loved cats died of starvation!

  • The owner was only 61yo.
    Couldn’t she climb out or bust out of there?
    Plaster over lath makes a very tough wall, but, surely she could have kicked, clawed, used a piece of board to gouge…
    I dunno, I smell a rat.
    Or, to use BigTex units, I smell approx 10 dead mice.

  • …The Cask of Amontillado…

    Odor probably did not dissipate towards the habitable areas and, instead, “seeped” elsewhere mostly undetected… After all, it was the result of contemporaneous renovations– ergo a better sealed area, perhaps.

  • What a horrible way to die.

  • Chris, I thought the same thing. Poe kicks butt!

  • @ movocelot-her skeleton showed that she broke her leg and lived long enough for it to start to heal. Plus it was probably Dec or Jan when she fell since the foreclosure didn’t start until March so the smell wouldn’t be as strong. And @ Bigtex….true on the smell but no one probably got close enough, not close enough to hear her yelling anyway plus the decomposing insects such as ants work quickly. Really horrible way to go….suffering. RIP Mary…..

  • Awful. I never go into my attic without my cellphone in case I sustain some sort of injury.

  • I see knob and tube wiring near the hole. Wonder if it’s possible that she was electrocuted whenever she fell into the hole?

  • @movocelot, we live in a bungalow of similar vintage, our walls are made of old growth ship lap and poor many was a slight woman. Given the tight space it could be difficult a gain any momentum to break out, so sad very sad.

  • # movocelot

    If she fell 9-feet head first, she could have easily broken her neck or been knocked unconscious. Even if she survived the fall unharmed, shimmying up between the walls would require physical strength few 61 year olds posses. What a way to go though…

  • MAYBE this will finally put the rabid conspiracy theorists at rest. Based on what’s been posted over the last year, it was a combination of Mr. Alexan and Paul Bettencourt’ s dirty deeds that directly lead to her demise, with the whole thing covered by up local Illuminati.

    And that’s not a missing floorboard in the attic….’cause it’s not the floor you’re looking at in the photo, it’s ceiling shiplap. Also, sure doesn’t look like a 19″ wide that’s cracked…

  • I wonder if she had dogs, and not cats, if she would be alive today.

  • Sad :( I “hope” (as hard as it is to hope for such a thing) she fell and broke her neck or was electrocuted vs being trapped and starving.

  • Dogs would have barked for a while then just laid around in their own filth until dead. I’ve watched Animal Cops recently but I haven’t seen Lassie in a while.

  • What a shame. What a rotten way to die. I wish there were more I could say.

  • At least she died in the house that she presumably loved. I’m still perplexed, though, with the following sentence: “On an afternoon last March — reports the Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall, who’s been all over the story as it’s developed — firefighters responding to a 911 call from the new renter who’d discovered the remains arrived at the address and busted open the wall from the house’s first floor.”

    Did the renter find the remains? If so, why call firefighters? And why did the firefighters bust open the wall?