CHATTANOOGA (AP) — Strange, sad and macabre, the discovery of the skeletal remains of twin brothers Andrew and Anthony Johnson has mystified neighbors and others in Chattanooga and beyond. Each man was found seated in an easy chair inside the modest home they shared for decades, and where they apparently died together about three years ago, with no obvious signs of foul play.
Even while they were alive, though, the 63-year-old twins were something of a mystery to their neighbors, who occasionally saw them wearing surgical masks while gardening but never saw them with visitors.
“I didn’t even know their names,” said retiree Linda Maffett, who lived across the street.
In an interview about the Johnsons she added, “It’s a strange story, it’s a sad story. I think it's sad that they were sitting there that long with nobody checking on them.”
Police went to the home March 29 after being asked to check on the brothers by a relative who had a key. Officers found the twins’ decomposing bodies sitting in recliners in the living room. Their conditions suggested both men had been dead since 2011.
An autopsy helped confirm their identities, but preliminary results revealed no obvious signs of trauma or foul play, Chattanooga police spokesman Tim McFarland said. He said there was some flesh on the brothers' skeletal remains. The Hamilton County medical examiner is working on toxicology tests. In the meantime, McFarland said police are not speculating on a cause of death.
But Chattanooga residents are formulating their own theories. Was there a gas leak that killed them? Was it a double suicide? Were they poisoned? Or did they just sit down one day and die together?
Neighbors said they had not seen the brothers in at least a couple of years.
They said the Johnsons kept to themselves and didn’t associate with others in Chattanooga’s Hixson community.
Police made a welfare check on them in 2011 at the request of a relative, but found nothing to lead them to break into the house. They said a relative told them it would be not be surprising if the twins moved without telling anyone in the family.
Some just assumed the house was vacant.
Although the Johnson brothers had stopped cutting their own grass, neighbors said it kept getting cut. No one has been able to say who maintained it, whether a neighborhood volunteer, relative or someone else.
A note inside the mailbox indicated that mail delivery had stopped because the postal service thought the Johnson brothers had moved.
Investigators say there was no indication the brothers suffered from mental illness. But they had little to no communication with others.
The Associated Press could not locate any relatives of the Johnsons. A man who was at the house last week ordered a reporter to get away from the property. He declined to identify himself.
Hamilton property records show the brothers bought the house in 1984 for about $43,000. Built in 1955, it is currently worth about $116,000.