Mom hadn’t left son’s home in a year. Vigilant pizza man discovered why, NH cops say

Pizza delivery man leads police to find a dead woman in her son’s home

Police say a pizza delivery man called police, leading to the discovery of a dead woman in her hoarding son’s home.
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Police say a pizza delivery man called police, leading to the discovery of a dead woman in her hoarding son’s home.

Gary Cotter routinely ordered Romano’s Pizza to his home in Salem, New Hampshire.

But on Wednesday, the pizza delivery man started to get suspicious about what was going on in Cotter’s home, WHDH reports.

“His order became a little more erratic, a little larger,” Romano’s Pizza worker Jack Johnson said of Cotter, the TV station reports. “When our driver got there (Cotter) asked him to bring the food to a window instead of the door and that raised some alarms.”

What the driver saw and smelled was even more shocking, WHDH reports: Cotter had blood on him, and there was a strong stench wafting out of his home, the delivery man said.

That’s when the pizza man called police to ask for a welfare check, the Union Leader reports.

Inside, authorities said they discovered Cotter’s 80-something mother, Florence Cotter, dead on Wednesday, according to the newspaper. Neighbors said it had been more than a year since they had seen the mother, and authorities said the woman had been dead for quite a while. Flies and a strong odor filled the home, WHDH reports.

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New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald announced Wednesday that state police and local law enforcement are investigating “the untimely death” of the woman.

Authorities also discovered an extreme case of hoarding inside the house, WMUR reports.

Pizza shop employees said Cotter — who is in his 60s — was in “rough shape” himself, WMUR reports.

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“He didn’t look very well,” Johnson said, according to WMUR. “He would order a large quantity of food, more than maybe one or two people would be ordering on a regular basis.”

After trying for hours to get Gary Cotter out of the home — communicating with him using a megaphone — first responders had to break him out of the home by creating a hole in the wall beneath a window, the Union Leader reports.

“They had a really hard time getting him out,” said Pam Avallone, a neighbor, according to the Union Leader.

Neighbor Brianna Avallone described Cotter as “totally immobile” by the time responders got to him, WHDH reports.

“He was in the chair that was in one of the dens in the house,” Avallone said, according to WHDH.

Another neighbor told the Union Leader that for some time he had been ferrying groceries to Cotter through the home’s window, just as the pizza delivery man did. Cotter had been battling a leg infection, said Joe Bolis, the 80-year-old neighbor, the Union Leader reports.

“He’s been sick for a while,” Bolis said, according to the newspaper.

The attorney general’s office said it will provide updates as the investigation continues.

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