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Coroner: Missing Waynesboro woman died of natural causes

Autopsy will not be performed; no foul play detected

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 4:05 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 1:39 AM
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A 77-year-old Waynesboro woman whose body was found Saturday at a nearby home almost a month after she went missing died of natural causes, Burke County Coroner Susan Salemi said Monday.

Arletha Bennett: Retired teacher, 77, had been missing since Jan. 16.  HAND OUT
HAND OUT
Arletha Bennett: Retired teacher, 77, had been missing since Jan. 16.


The cause of death is listed as senility with Alzheimer’s and probable hypothermia, and Bennett might have died not long after she went missing on Jan. 16, Salemi said.

She said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner in Atlanta, however, made the decision not to perform an autopsy on retired teacher Arletha Diane Bennett because the body did not display any signs of trauma or foul play, and there was no reason to examine it further.

The medical examiner told her the GBI crime lab is “stacked up” and it is only examining bodies in which foul play is suspected.

The body was found in the laundry room of a residence at 1144 Herman Lodge Blvd. Authorities received a call about 2 p.m. Saturday, after Wayne Jenkins and James Salisbury, who lives at the home, discovered Bennett.

Bennett lived several houses down on the same street where her body was found.

Earlier this month, police officers and volunteers from across the Southeast travelled to Waynesboro to help search for her, at times using all-terrain vehicles and police helicopters to cover the surrounding rural area.

Waynesboro police frequently turned to social media during the search for help, urging citizens to check any sheds, cars, buildings and wooded areas where Bennett might have sought shelter.

Salemi said recent cold might have played a role in preventing decay and its odor.

The highest recorded temperature during the period that Bennett had been missing was 72 degrees on Feb. 2, according to meteorologist Chris Lincinsky, of the National Weather Service. The average high temperature recorded so far in February is 57.8 degrees.

Waynesboro Police Chief Augustus Palmer III, who sent out a news release announcing that Bennett had died of natural causes late Monday, didn’t immediately return phone calls from The Augusta Chronicle seeking more information on how Bennett might have ended up at Salisbury’s house.

Bennett was a 35-year veteran of the Burke County School System.

Comments (5) Add comment
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itsanotherday1
45507
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itsanotherday1 02/17/14 - 05:58 pm
4
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I hope the family gets some

I hope the family gets some peace from this finding, though I feel sure there are still a lot of questions.

corgimom
34237
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corgimom 02/17/14 - 06:35 pm
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At least the family can be at

At least the family can be at peace knowing that she wasn't harmed and that she was found.

mll
700
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mll 02/18/14 - 12:24 am
6
2
I sympathize with the family

of this poor woman but I have yet to see an explanation of how a body can be in someone's laundry room for a month & they don't find it. Do they only do laundry once a month? Is their laundry room open to the outside yet not as accessible to the inside of the home? Wouldn't they have noticed something, perhaps an odor? I have really missed something in these articles because it makes no sense. I apologize if I seem insensitive. That is not my intention.

belle
309
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belle 02/18/14 - 08:58 am
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mll
Unpublished

I don't believe the resident was staying in the home at the time. But aren't they legally bound to at least check the house? I know they are morally bound but that doesn't exist as prevalently as t used to.

whyme
2002
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whyme 02/18/14 - 09:47 am
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article

First, my sincere sympathy to the family and friends of such a beloved member of the community.
Frequently I comment about the great leaps of inferences that people make online, usually in a negative tone, with regards to the limited information that is provided by the AC in the various articles. In this case, I appreciate the lack of such remarks being made and I hope that they remain absent as the days go on. Hopefully people are recognizing the need to write with insight, intelligence, and human sensitivity.

With that said, I do not wish anything sinister to have happened to this dear woman but it is certainly unusual to have such a case and article with what appears to be contradictory statements (don't want to call them "facts") presented as the previous post indicates. Prayers to all involved.

belle
309
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belle 02/18/14 - 09:52 am
0
0
mll
Unpublished

I don't believe the resident was staying in the home at the time. But aren't they legally bound to at least check the house? I know they are morally bound but that doesn't exist as prevalently as t used to.

RahRah
4
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RahRah 02/19/14 - 01:43 pm
0
0
The house Ms Bennett was

The house Ms Bennett was found in the laundry room of a vacant house. The owner was deceased.

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