JAMAICA, Queens (PIX11) — The sister of Marilyn McMichael, a longtime resident of South Jamaica Houses, said the medical examiner could not determine McMichael’s cause of death, three months after the woman’s skeleton was discovered by NYCHA employees working outside her bedroom window.
“I can only trust they have done all they can,” Sharman McElrath, the sister, told PIX11 News. “There’s no trauma to the bones, no injuries to the bones.”
McMichael, 54, grew up with three foster sisters in Queens and was known to lose contact with them for a year or two at a time. She had struggled with emotional issues.
After the first wave of the pandemic, the sisters said McMichael reached out to them in July 2020 and said she wanted to go to the hospital. The sisters told her hospital admissions were difficult during COVID but went to McMichael’s apartment the next day. They said she didn’t answer the door.
A calendar later found inside McMichael’s apartment indicated she had not turned the page since August 2020, suggesting she may have been dead nearly two years when her skeleton was discovered.
McMichael’s sisters said they did occasional wellness checks but she never answered the door.
Finally, in January 2022, the sisters told PIX11 News they met resistance when they went to the NYCHA office at South Jamaica Houses and called police, hoping to file a missing persons report.
“They said my parents were on the emergency card,” Simone Best Jones recalled, “and I let them know they had both been dead for over 20 years.”
The sisters learned McMichael had not paid her rent in more than a year.
At the time, the sisters convinced NYCHA managers to go to McMichael’s door on the seventh floor, but the master key didn’t work.
“And they never tried again,” Best Jones said. “And they said they would. They said they had an investigator who would find her.”
Three months later, in late April, the NYCHA workers discovered McMichael’s skeleton on her bed, when they were working on scaffolding outside her windows, which were open.
Julie Bolcer, Executive Director of Public Affairs for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, said Thursday, “The ME has recently issued a final decision. The cause of death is undetermined and the manner of death is undetermined. This means that after an extensive investigation and using all the information and testing resources available, the ME is unable to make a conclusion with certainty. Should additional information arise, the case could be reviewed again, as with any investigation.”
Sharman McElrath told PIX11 News, “Last week, the funeral home brought me her ashes.”
McElrath said she will plan a memorial for Marilyn McMichael in the future.
“I do have her ashes, and I will be requesting a death certificate,” the sister said.