102-Year-Old Woman Found Dead in Cold House; Son Seeks Answers

Grandma Bea's heat was turned off when her gas line was excavated

The son of a 102-year-old woman from southeast Washington is searching for answers after finding his mother dead in a "ice cold" house after her heat was turned off when her gas line was excavated.

Paul Bowman said his mother, Beatrice Harley, was found in night clothes, wrapped in a pile of blankets and huddled against a radiator by paramedics March 21. The temperature had fallen into the 30s.

"She had taken as many blankets as she could find, rolled herself up and got as close as she could to the hot water radiator," Bowman said. "That’s where she was found."

That day, he had called his mother to check on her, but gotten no answer.

"They were calling for snow and bad weather on Friday, and I wanted to make sure she had enough stuff in case we did get snow," Bowman said. "I went in the house. Immediately, when I opened the door, the house was ice cold."

Bowman says the heat had been turned off in the house. Harley's gas line had been excavated, with only a card left behind. The card gave no indication of what work had been done or the status of her service.

Bowman told News4 he called Washington Gas trying to find out what happened. "No response. No concern," Bowman said.

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Washington Gas did not answer News4's questions about what happened, including the procedures for doing this type of work.

"The District of Columbia municipal privacy regulations prohibit Washington Gas or any other utility from disclosing information that reveals the status of any individual's account," the utility said in a statement. "We are saddened to hear of the passing of Mrs. Harley."

The medical examiner has not yet determined Harley's cause of death. But Bowman feels it had something to do with the lack of heat.

"I believe if they had not interrupted her heat in her house, my mother would still be here today," Bowman said.

Bowman has turned to District Councilmember Yvette Alexander for help. Alexander said the utility has confirmed to her that they are investigating.

"I spoke to an official at Washington Gas who told me he couldn't answer specific questions but said they have started their own investigation," Alexander said.

Bowman and his family, meanwhile, are holding a memorial service this weekend for Harley, who had lived in her home in southeast for 25 years. "She was very spry. She painted, she was a God-fearing woman," Bowman said.

He wiped away tears as he remembered his mother. "I want to find out what happened," Bowman said.

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