Death and Despair: Wife finds late husband’s belongings in trash after hiring cleanup crew

(WSVN) - When her husband was found dead in his room, she hired a cleaning company to take care of the mess in the bedroom, and what happened next left the family stunned. The Nightteam’s Patrick Fraser has our special assignment report: Death and Despair.

Joe Luppino had not been in great health for a long time, but his family was still shocked.

Margaret Luppino, found husband dead: “And I went in the bedroom and found him. I came out and said, ‘He’s dead.'”

Angela Sikes, Joe’s daughter: “I was screaming, ‘No, he’s not. No, he’s not.'”

Angela’s father, Margaret’s husband had apparently fallen while walking in his bedroom.

Angela Sikes: “Because he fell face first, so there was blood on the floor.”

As the coroner was leaving, he had a suggestion for Margaret.

Angela Sikes: “You might want to have somebody come and clean up.”

Margaret called a company that cleans up crime scenes.

She signed this contract that said the company would remove seven items.

Margaret Luppino: “He told me that anything that was porous or of a porous nature that was near the body or in contact with the body would have to be disposed of, and I said, ‘I understand that.'”

The crew then put on hazmats suits, covered the entrance to the bedroom with plastic and went to work in Joe’s room.

Margaret Luppino: “We couldn’t see anything that they were doing.”

The crew worked all day taking items out the back door.

Margaret and Angela were grieving, making funeral arrangements and didn’t even look out the front window until the next morning.

Margaret Luppino: “We went out to the front, and there were two portable dumpsters, and they were just overflowing with stuff.”

Two portable dumpsters were full. Not just the mattress that Joe had been on but nearly everything in the room.

Margaret Luppino: “You know, I didn’t think they would be taking pictures off the wall. I didn’t think they would be opening drawers and taking all the clothes that were in the drawers and throwing them away.”

A jewelry box had been emptied in the dumpsters. A cabinet with all their paperwork was opened and dumped in the trash.

A TV and computer that were in the room were thrown in bags and busted.

The cleanup crew had even gone into a nearby walk in closet, thrown away Joe’s clothes and Margaret’s clothes.

Margaret Luppino: “None of it was near his body. Nothing was in contact with his body at all.”

They even removed the wooden slats where Joe’s body was found, and the cards that Angela had made for her dad over the years were also taken out of a drawer and thrown away.

Margaret Luppino: “Seeing how emotional she was about that broke my heart.

Angela Sikes: “I had found that they threw away a scrap book.”

Even the containers with their dog’s ashes were tossed in the trash.

Angela Sikes: “All of his belongings were out there mixed with bodily fluids and blood.”

The bill for that cleanup was more than $33,000. After Margaret paid the $2,500 deductible, her insurance paid the rest, but the family was still upset.

Angela Sikes: “There was a lot more pain picking through garbage and all his memories than to have just cleaned the mess ourselves.”

Margaret wanted to file a complaint, but as we discovered, there was no one to complain to.

We contacted four state and federal agencies who sent similar statements.

The Florida Department of Health wrote, “They do not regulate the cleanup procedures.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration wrote, “Companies do not need certification or a license to perform trauma scene cleanup or biohazard removal.”

Angela Sikes: “Anger. Anger and baffled.”

Aftermath Services, the company Margaret hired to clean up Joe’s bedroom, wrote us, “While he may have been declared dead on July 6, it was clear from the conditions the body had been decaying prior to then.”

They had “explained what porous materials are,” and “Ms. Luppino authorized us to throw away the majority of the room’s contents.”

When the family complained, we came back to “help retrieve items that [Joe’s daughter] wanted to save” — adding, “We did not receive any additional calls.”

Margaret Luppino: “I just kinda let it go for a while and just, I don’t know, cope.”

Margaret and Angela are trying to get on with their lives.

Margaret just returned from Italy. She and Joe loved that country. She went there to scatter Joe’s ashes.

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