An 87-year-old man who was found vacuum-sealed in a large bag in a freezer died from natural causes, officials said Friday, and his son faces an abuse of corpse charge.
Detectives arrested Edward Fitchett, 59, last week after they discovered the body of his father, Henry Conley Fitchett Jr., inside a home in Aurora. Lt. Chris Baldridge, Marion County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said the agency wasn't commenting Friday beyond a brief news release about the cause of death.
But a redacted probable cause affidavit shows investigators began a missing person case Jan. 29 after a family member expressed concern about conflicting information from Edward Fitchett regarding his father, who was last seen in September 2016.
On Feb. 16, the younger Fitchett was taken into custody after investigators conducted a series of interviews with family members and others who knew the father.
The unidentified family member told detectives that Edward Fitchett said his father had moved away with his girlfriend to Estacada but he had no contact information for the couple. But the family member had also received a phone call from the father's caregiver, according to affidavit.
The caregiver, who is not identified in the document, said Edward Fitchett told her his father moved to La Grande from a mobile home in Marion County to live with another son, John Fitchett, according to the affidavit. Later, John Fitchett told investigators he had not seen his father for three years and had last spoken to him by phone around Christmas 2015, according to the affidavit.
The caregiver also told detectives she last saw the elder Fitchett around Christmas 2015, and he appeared to be in bad health. Investigators interviewed neighbors and other acquaintances who reported seeing the father between August 2015 and early 2016, according to the affidavit. A landlord told investigators she received a handwritten note stating Henry Fitchett was moving to east Oregon to live with John Fitchett.
Medical records show a doctor last saw the elder Fitchett Dec. 1, 2015, and the doctor's office tried to follow up with a phone call in October 2016, according to the affidavit. Someone claiming to be Henry Fitchett said he was fine and did not need anymore services, according to the affidavit.
On Feb. 16, detectives served a search warrant at Edward Fitchett's home, where they found his father's body naked in a large, vacuum-sealed bag. Detectives said Edward Fitchett admitted to placing the body in the freezer but declined to give anymore details, according to the affidavit.
An Oregon State Medical Examiner official could not be immediately be reached Friday.
During the investigation, the Sheriff's Office had made a public appeal for help finding the missing man. At the time, Edward Fitchett told KOIN news he was responsible for his father's money.
The son is accused of second-degree abuse of a corpse and 13 counts of first-degree theft for stealing money from his father between January 2016 and January 2017, according to court records. Edward Fitchett remains in the Marion County jail on $280,000 bail.
Court records show he's scheduled for a plea hearing March 3.
-- Tony Hernandez
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