SALEM, Ore. — After he admitted to stuffing his father's corpse in a vacuum-sealed bag, hiding his body in the freezer and pocketing his father's Social Security checks and state retirement system payments for months, an Aurora man was sentenced to 7 years prison Tuesday.
Edward Conley Fitchett, 59, pleaded guilty to second-degree abuse of a corpse and six counts of first-degree theft.
He was arrested in February after Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies discovered the body of Henry Conley Fitchett Jr., 87, stashed in a freezer next to Edward's trailer.
Another family member reported Henry missing on Jan. 29. Neighbors reported last seeing Henry between August 2015 and early 2016, but Edward insisted he lived with his father until August 2016. He told deputies his father had moved in with his girlfriend. Four months earlier, however, he told his landlord his father went to live with his brother in eastern Oregon.
A local doctor's office last treated Henry in December 2015. In August, a person claiming to be Henry called the office, said they were fine and no longer needed treatment.
Investigators discovered Henry was still receiving about $2,000 a month from Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System and Social Security benefits. Edward admitted to spending the money on personal purchases through Amazon, plus on rent, electricity bills and storage payments.
The conflicting stories and Edward's admission of theft led deputies to serve a search warrant at Edward's home on the 21300 block of Hubbard Cutoff Road NE. They found Henry, naked and sealed in a bag inside the freezer. An Oregon State Medical Examiners Office autopsy determined Fitchett died of natural causes in December 2015.
Edward told investigators he put his father's body in the fridge but declined to give further details.
He was arrested and charged with second-degree abuse of a corpse and 13 counts of first-degree theft.
In each theft count, he was accused of stealing more than $1,000 on at least 13 occasions from January 2016 to January 2017.
In a notice filed in Marion County, prosecutor Keir Boettcher stated Edward has demonstrated a violation of trust, was part of an organized criminal operation and showed a lack of remorse. He also identified Henry as a vulnerable victim and his son's action caused great harm.
As part of his sentence, Edward was also ordered to pay for his father's funeral and to pay further restitution. The remaining charges were dismissed.