Elderly sisters found in home near Clover in July had been dead for years, officials say

Two elderly sisters found dead in a home near Clover last July had been dead for as long as four years, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said.

The bodies had been wrapped in plastic for years before they were found, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

Susan Gardner, 69, and her sister, Ruth Allred, 77, were found dead in the Griggs Road house July 31, Gast and Tolson said.

Deputies believe that a son of one of the victims wrapped the bodies, Tolson said. The son failed to contact anyone so he could continue getting government benefits meant for his mother and aunt, Tolson said.

Deputies were at the home for a well-being check with S.C. Department of Social Services agents July 31, officials said. Deputies first found Thomas Stephen Gardner, 45, dead near the front door. Thomas Gardner, Susan Gardner’s son, had died after shooting himself, Gast said.

Deputies then searched the house and found the bodies of Susan Gardner and Ruth Allred in a back bedroom, sheriff’s officials said.

Tolson said Friday that no foul play is suspected in the deaths of Susan Gardner and Ruth Allred. No charges are going to be filed.

Tolson and Gast said Thomas Gardner left a suicide note that stated he did not report the deaths out of fear he would be blamed.

“It is believed Thomas Gardner wrapped the bodies and left them in a room of the home until their discovery on July 31,” Tolson said. “Detectives believe Thomas Gardner failed to report the deaths as to continue to benefit financially from government benefits.”

The suicide note said Thomas Gardner’s mother, Susan, had been dead since November 2015, Gast said. The note said that Ruth Allred had been dead since early 2016, Gast said.

Coroner officials performed testing on the bodies. Testing was consistent with what Thomas Gardner wrote in the note, Gast said.

The probable cause of death for Allred was a natural death from cardiovascular disease, Gast said.

The cause of death for Susan Gardner is undetermined, Gast said. No traumatic injuries were found on Susan Gardner, Gast said.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.