93-year-old Crestline woman with dementia found dead in her snowed-in home with no heat

Rob McMillan Image
Friday, March 10, 2023
93-year-old Crestline woman found dead in her snowed-in home
A 93-year-old woman recently diagnosed with dementia was found dead in her snowed-in home by her neighbors

CRESTLINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Neighbors of 93-year-old Elinor Dolly Avenatti are mourning her death after her body was found in her Crestline home Monday morning.

Avenatti had been living alone and without a heat source after losing power last week during the prolonged snow-in recently. One of her neighbors, Margaret Potvin, said they had been checking in on Avenatti. But the last time Potvin had heard from Avenatti was on Friday.

Potvin also said Avennatti had recently been diagnosed with dementia.

"She said she was ok for now, but I don't know if you could trust what she said because of the dementia, and then I wanted her to come to my house," said Potvin.

But when neighbors went back to check on Avenatti later in the day, she did not answer, causing a family member to alert the authorities.

"He was told she was on their list, I don't know what that means, so they were aware of her needing to be rescued," said Potvin.

By Monday, neighbors decided to go in and check on Avenatti themselves since no emergency response officials had conducted a wellness check on the home.

"We knew where there was a key, we got into her house and she was by the fireplace dead," said Potvin.

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Avenatti's death was not related to the storms.

"No suspicious circumstances were found in the home. There was no evidence the death was related to the weather event or lack of food or resources," the sheriff's department said in a press release.

There have been at least 13 deaths in the mountain communities since the storm hit, but county officials have said only one of them is confirmed as storm related.

As for Potvin, she is unsure if Avenatti's death is storm related.

"I think she may have died due to natural causes," Potvin said. "But I think very strongly that the freezing cold had to have something to do with it as well."

Potvin also does not blame anyone from the county for Avenatti's death.

"I know she did not want to leave her house, so that's a factor too," Potvin said.

To prevent similar tragedies in the future, Potvin said people living in the mountain communities should be better prepared for disasters such as the one caused due to the recent snow.

"I think all of us just need to be more prepared," said Potvin. "If you were a person who needed medicine every two or three days, or special medicine, I think the lesson would be to leave the mountain."