It’s unclear what really went on behind the locked door of apartment 5-B in a building in Brooklyn’s Borough Park. The 28-year-old resident, Chava Stirn, largely kept to herself and rarely left the apartment. Through the windows, neighbors saw trash piling up. Some neighbors detected an odd smell, while others never noticed a thing.
But the strange situation took a macabre turn last week when the building’s superintendent tried to gain access to the apartment to fix a leak. According to police, Stirn refused to open the door. Eventually, when emergency workers knocked it down, they found a startling scene: a disheveled young woman sitting on a chair, surrounded by piles of garbage.
And then, in the kitchen, they made a gruesome discovery: the skeletal remains of 61-year-old Susie Rosenthal, Stirn’s mother. She had been dead a long time – police estimate between one and three years.
“It’s a scene right out of Psycho,” a law-enforcement source told the New York Post. “This is one of the weirdest cases I’ve ever seen. She may have been living there with the mom’s remains for two or three years. It’s a horrible scene.”
The newspaper also reports that Stirn would often dress like her deceased mother, wearing the same black outfit and shoes that Rosenthal was wearing when she died.
The only visitor was Rosenthal’s sister, who never entered the apartment. “She brought meals for them once a day and left it in front of the door and they’d take it in,” Mayer Berger, a spokesman for a burial service, told the New York Daily News.
Police confirm to PEOPLE that Stirn is undergoing psychiatric evaluation while crews clean up the apartment. “All I can say is that we’re taking it seriously,” says a source at the Brooklyn Police 66th precinct. “It’s a very sad situation.”