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Body of Apparent Errant Burglar Found In Chimney

June 3, 1986

LAKE PLACID, Fla. (AP) _ The decomposed body of a man believed to be a burglar was found stuck in a chimney by volunteer firefighters and sheriff’s deputies who cracked open an ornate fireplace at a weekend retreat here, authorities said.

People heard rapping sounds from the house last week but were unable to find the source of the noise, Highlands County Sheriff’s Lt. Bob Hopton said Monday.

Homeowner Bill Sfaelos called deputies after he reached up the 10 -inch by 16-inch chimney and found the man’s legs hanging down.

″I go up there because it’s peaceful and quiet and no one bothers me,″ said Sfaelos, 68, of Fort Lauderdale. ″The minute I entered the house, I smelled something kind of smelly-like, like a dead rat.″

Hopton said the body, in advanced decomposition, had been trapped in the narrow space at least four days. An autopsy determined dehydration as the cause of death.

″I’ve never seen anything like that or even heard anything like that,″ Hopton said after deputies and volunteer firefighters spent nearly five hours on Friday cutting through the fireplace from the outside.

″We know he was in there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because people still heard sounds in that area, rapping sounds. And when we found him he had a stick, and apparently was rapping on the chimney with that,″ he said.

People outside the house could hear the noises and checked all around the house, the lieutenant said.

″Of course, they didn’t find anything. You could look for a long time and not suspect anybody was in the chimney.″

Burglary appeared to have been the motive for the unidentified man’s fatal trip down the chimney, Hopton said.

″I can’t figure out what else he was doing. The owner hadn’t ordered anybody to clean the chimney and this man wasn’t taking a casual stroll up on the roof,″ said Hopton.

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