Elderly couple found dead in South Carolina bedroom after home heater reached 1,000 degrees

Two elderly people in South Carolina were found dead in a bedroom during a wellness check last week, with police saying that the home’s heater had reached 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit – so hot the victims’ bodies had exceeded 106 degrees.

In a police report obtained by CBS News, an officer said that he went to their residence on Jan. 6 to conduct a wellness check after their family had not heard from them in three days. Officers had to enter the home through the bedroom window, at which point the pair – 84-year-old Joan Littlejohn and 82-year-old Glennwood Fowler – were found dead in their bed. There were no signs of a struggle or foul play. 

The responding officer said they “noticed the residence was extremely hot” as soon as they entered. And when medics went to obtain the victims’ body temperatures, he recorded each at over 106 degrees Fahrenheit – the highest his device would register. 

According to Mayo Clinic, the average body temperature should range between 97 degrees and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. If the core body temperature surpasses 104 degrees, individuals “need immediate cooling and urgent medical attention.” 

When the fire department arrived, they found that the interior temperature of the house was over 120 degrees – after the residence had been open to the cold weather “for about 20 minutes,” the police report says. 

“They then checked the basement of the residence where the heater and hot water heater were located,” the police report states. “One firefighter stated the heater was so hot it looked as if the basement was currently on fire.” 

After deactivating the heater, they found that the temperature of the heater measured at over 1,000 degrees. 

Spartanburg Coroner Rusty Clevenger said his office is “concerned with why the temperature was so high” in the house,” but that no foul play was detected. Carbon dioxide levels in the house were not of concern, police said, and the coroner said that his office “will continue to investigate.” 

Upon speaking to the victims’ family, the responding officer learned that hot water heater and heater “both were out and the residence was getting too cold” the last day the family saw the pair. The family ended up “fiddling” with the hot water heater, and family members left the home. 

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