Feds: Woman hid man's body, stole his Social Security for 15 years

Feds: Woman hid man's body, stole his Social Security for 15 years

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - Carel June Cody cared for John Arnold at the end of his life - then buried his body, concealed his death and continued to collect his Social Security benefits for more than 15 years, according to federal prosectuors.

Efforts to locate Arnold's body in Douglas County have proven unsuccesful so far, according to the sheriff's office there.

And the case could expand as prosecutors sort out allegations of sham marriages, a man found naked and dead outdoors while in Cody's care - and concerns about the cleanliness of a pet monkey.

"Multiple people have died while in defendant’s care," the U.S. Attorney for Oregon wrote in a memo filed in federal court. "It is possible that these people died of natural causes, but defendant’s actions following the deaths and her current obstructionist behavior reflect her feelings of guilt and her desire to conceal the truth."

Cody, 46, of Cottage Grove faces charges of theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft, and making false statements to a federal agent for allegedly forging the man’s signature on checks payable to herself and lying to a federal agent to conceal the man’s death, federal prosecutors said Friday.

She faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted.

Cody and her husband, Ernest Cook, were arrested Thursday and taken to the Lane County Jail pending an appearance Friday in federal court. She pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors planned to ask a federal judge to detain Cody pending the outcome of a trial.

"Cody demonstrated her true character when she disposed of Mr. Arnold’s body with little
concern or remorse," the U.S. Attorney for Oregon wrote. "According to defendant, she chose to conceal his death, dig a grave, and dump his body rather than have DHS discover that she had a pet monkey and unsanitary living conditions."

Carel June Cody was a licensed in-home caregiver for the state Department of Human Services from 1990 to 1994, the agency confirmed to KVAL News on Friday. Two complaints were filed against her during that period, one of which was "substantiated" by a state investigation.

Prosecutors allege that Arnold died sometime between 1994 and 1996. Instead of alerting authorities, Cody enlisted the help of others to bury his body on private property and conceal his death, prosecutors said. Since that time, she allegedly has been stealing Arnold’s Social Security benefits - more than $200,000 to date, according to prosecutors.

The investigation regarding the death of Mr. Arnold is being conducted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Local, state and federal authorities were digging on property near Drain earlier this month in an attempt to locate Arnold's body.

"We had our major crimes team and several agencies up there assisting with the excavation of some land around that residence looking for the body," said Deputy Dwes Hutson. "The body was not recovered. At this point our case is still open and active and under investigation and we anticipate sending what we have to our district attorney's office for them to review and decide if any local or state changes are appropriate."

The U.S. Attorney's Office is also concerned about other men Cody has care for in the past.

"One witness also told investigators of an occasion prior to Mr. Arnold’s death where defendant had called her for her assistance in moving the body of another gentleman that had been in defendant’s care and had died, naked, in defendant’s yard. The witness helped defendant
move the body to the gentleman’s bed before defendant alerted anyone of his death."

A man currently in Cody's care, identified as M.B. in documents filed with the court, could not tell investigators how much he received in Social Security benefits.

"A witness told investigators that M.B. was in a care facility in the early 1990s and the
care facility would not release M.B. to defendant’s care out of concern for M.B. Defendant
convinced M.B. to marry her in Reno as the care facility would have to release M.B. to defendant
if they were married. Defendant and M.B. were married, consummated the marriage with a
hand-shake, and then shortly thereafter obtained a quick divorce."

The case is being investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector
General, Office of Investigations, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Roseburg Police
Department, and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Helen L.
Cooper, as part of a partnership venture between the Social Security Administration Office of
General Counsel and the United States Attorney’s Office.