William Wilson thought it suspicious that the doors of a long-vacant home he bought at auction on Tuesday in southwest Florida were chained from the inside.
Kids next door told him not to be surprised if he found a dead body because they never saw the owner leave.
Still, Wilson said it came as a shock to discover a nearly mummified body lying on the floor of the master bedroom next to the bed.
"It wasn't expected, that's for sure," Wilson told Reuters.
Cape Coral police wrapped yellow crime scene tape around the weathered pink house's overgrown yard. Sergeant Dana Coston said there are no obvious signs of foul play but an investigation is pending.
Wilson said he bought the house for $96,000 after it went to auction because of the owner's failure to pay property taxes for three years. Old droppings from a pet bird suggest it drank out of the toilet before the water supply was turned off, Wilson said, but he did not find any sign of the bird.
He said it appeared the owner had been in the process of packing her belongings.
Wilson said he has learned that two elderly sisters from Venezuela who spoke little English lived in the home and that one died in 2005.
He said the neighborhood kids told him police had been called twice to check on the owner but never did. Coston said police had no record of a call for a well-being check on the woman.
Wilson said he bought the house for his sister-in-law and her family, who moved recently from Cuba.
"She doesn't want it now. She's ... kind of superstitious," he said.
Wilson said he will clean up the house and try to resell it.
"The sad thing was she was there for three years and no family ever showed up to ask what happened," Wilson said.
(Corrects spelling in dateline)
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Sandra Maler)