The daughter and a grandson of an 84-year-old woman who died at a Northern California farmhouse cremated her on an improvised barbecue and fashioned a necklace with a chunk of the woman's skull, authorities in rural Tehama County said Wednesday.
Kathleen Theresa Allmond, 50, and her son, Tony Ray, 30, were jailed on suspicion of elder abuse and embezzlement. The pair allegedly cashed the retirement and Social Security checks that kept arriving for Ramona Yolanda Allmond after she died in December at her home in Corning in the northern Sacramento Valley. Officials said the incident was about as gruesome as it gets in the ordinarily quiet region about halfway between Sacramento and the Oregon border.
"We've had some strange stuff go on here," said sheriff's Capt. Paul Hosler. "About 25 years ago, we had a guy and his wife who kidnapped a gal and kept her under the bed for a couple of years -- but I guess this is a little more bizarre."
Hosler said police believe that the mother-and-son duo kept the woman's body on her bedroom floor for a week after she died. He said that the cause of death is under investigation but that "there is no suspicion at this point" of murder.
According to investigators, the pair burned the body in a concrete culvert on the 10-acre almond orchard where all three lived. Weeks earlier, they had used the culvert to cook their Thanksgiving turkey.
Officials were alerted Saturday by Ramona Allmond's son in Southern California, who had not heard from his mother since December. He became particularly worried when his Corning relatives visited last month and "couldn't give him a plausible explanation as to where Grandma was," Hosler said.
The unidentified son's suspicions were inflamed when his sister later called, pretended to be their mother, and assured him that everything was fine.
Last weekend, Kathleen Allmond told investigators about the necklace, Hosler said. She had posted a MySpace photo of herself wearing it while holding a flute.
Additional charges are being researched, Hosler said. Cremating a body without a permit is a misdemeanor, he said.