TOOELE — Before he died, Paul Edward Mathers wanted to make it clear that his wife did not kill him.
“I want it known that Jeanne is in NO way responsible for my death,” Mathers wrote in a letter notarized Dec. 2, 2008.
But exactly how Mathers died and how his body ended up in a freezer inside his apartment, where it apparently stayed for a decade, may never be answered.
On Wednesday, Tooele police announced they had concluded their investigation into one of the department’s most “unique” cases ever. But several questions surrounding the death of Mathers remained unanswered.
The bizarre case began Nov. 22 when police responded to the Remington Park Apartments, 495 W. Utah Ave., to conduct a welfare check on 75-year-old Jeanne Sourone-Mathers, who had not been seen for a week. Inside, police discovered she was deceased and was believed to have died of natural causes.
But as officers searched the house looking for clues as to how long she had been dead, they discovered Mathers’ body in the freezer.
Detectives suspected early in the investigation that the couple may have purposely kept Paul Mather’s death a secret so his wife could continue receiving Veterans Affairs checks after his death. Tooele Police Sgt. Jeremy Hansen said Wednesday that detectives determined Sourone-Mathers received $177,325 from the VA from the time her husband died until the time she died. The couple did not receive any Social Security money, he said.
Police say Mathers had terminal cancer but were unable to conclude if that was the ultimate cause of death. Investigators believe he died sometime between Feb. 4, 2009, and March 8, 2009.
According to a notarized letter believed to have been written by Paul Mathers before his death, he called his body “cancer ridden.”
“I am fully aware that with my heart conditio(n) the Lortabs/Hydrocodine will eventually stop my heart. It will not be deliberate as I am not ready to leave my wife, Jeanne Marie. Jeanne has foiled my actual suicide attempts.”
An autopsy by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office noted that Mathers “had end of stage bladder cancer, for which he had only weeks to months to live in early 2009. It is also noted that Mr. Mathers’ toxicology included highly lethal levels of several prescription narcotics,” Tooele police said in a prepared statement.
But when Mathers’ body was found in the freezer, he had a garbage bag wrapped around his head “with it tightly duct taped around his neck,” according to Hansen.
“It is unclear whether this was secured before or after death, therefore, an asphyxial cause of death cannot be ruled out. Because a definitive cause of death cannot be determined, the manner of death also remains undetermined,” the Medical Examiner’s Office stated.
Then there was the question of whether Sourone-Mathers had help putting the garbage bag on her husband’s head, wrapping the duct tape and putting him in the freezer.
According to Hansen, the “Utah State Crime Lab processed the garbage bags for latent fingerprints, but no latent prints of comparable value were found.”
Because of that, the question of whether anyone else was involved in putting Mathers’ body in the freezer also remained unanswered.
Questions were also raised about whether relatives ever questioned why they never heard from or saw Mathers.
On March 5, 2009, Mathers’ sister went to visit and was told by Sourone-Mathers that her husband had moved to California, Hansen said.
There were also indications that Mathers had somewhat of an estranged relationship with his family, according to police. In his note, while emphasizing his wife had nothing to do with his death, Mathers added, “Although that will be what my drama queen mother will claim. My mother ... can get on with her life with-out having to acknowledge that I her first born am a T.G.”
“T.G.” can be used as an abbreviation for “transgender.” The letter is signed “Paul E. Mathers, aka, Paula E. Mathers.”
Mathers’ mother died in January 2018, Hansen said, posing yet another roadblock in seeking answers in the investigation.
Hansen said because many of those with direct knowledge of what happened have died and because of other challenges in collecting information and evidence, “We are never going to have final answers.”