Skeleton Found Hidden in Holdout Heights House Belongs to Missing Owner, Medical Examiner Declares

Harris County’s Institute of Forensic Sciences has now officially determined that the bones found in a holdout house on Allston St. now wrapped by an apartment complex whose developer came knocking but was unable to acquire the property belong to the homeowner who protested the development. Mary Cerruti spent time documenting construction on the Alexan Yale St. Yale at 6th apartments (formerly called Alexan Heights) starting in 2013 as they went up behind and around her bungalow at 610 Allston. Squinting behind red drugstore eyeglasses at a planning commission meeting on Valentines Day that year, the 61-year-old testified that “Literally, this project is going to be in my backyard. I’m surrounded.” Two years later, she disappeared.

Cerruti’s former home has been available for sale since March of last year. (“Amazing opportunity in the Houston Heights. New construction all around and the house is surrounded by the new Alexan Heights Luxury Apartments,” reads the listing.) Last November, the asking price for the 2-bedroom, 1-bath property was jacked up to $475,000. The only other property on the block left out of the apartment development is the vacant lot next door.

The county medical examiner’s new findings confirm what investigators had long suspected but had previously been unable to prove. Last June, an autopsy on the skeleton (which had been significantly chewed-up by rodents while it lay undiscovered inside the bungalow) showed that one of its legs was healing from a break — perhaps caused when its owner fell through a hole in the attic floorboards, into the spot high in the bungalow’s walls where her remains were later found.

Crime experts walked back their speculations 2 weeks ago, however, after DNA comparisons between one of the skeleton’s teeth and samples submitted by Cerruti’s relatives showed no exact match. But examiners were able to make their identification after comparing the skull’s jawbones to a photo of Cerruti and the video of her appearance before the planning commission, reports the Chronicle‘s Emily Foxhall.

Trammell Crow started work on the 5-story Alexan complex in 2013 behind and around Cerruti’s then-yellow bungalow:


Frustrated by changes coming to the neighborhood she’d lived in for 12 years — and the construction noise she said started every day at 6:30 a.m. — Cerruti began taking photos of the apartment complex, developing them at Walgreens, and annotating them, Foxhall reports.

Neighbors reported her missing in early 2015. In March, a letter from Deutsche Bank arrived; Cerruti had stopped making mortgage payments and the lender planned to foreclose on the property. The receipt for that document has a signature that’s illegible, notes Foxhall.

The house sold at auction in November of that year. Two years later — following renovations including a new paint job — new tenants moving boxes into the attic nudged a floorboard, revealing a hole. Inside were the remains — along with an old rag and a pair of cheap red eyeglasses.

Photos: HAR (610 Allston St. after renovation); Swamplot inbox (610 Allston St. and vacant lot during construction); Christopher Andrews (610 Allston St. during construction)

The Plot Thickens

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