Woman froze to death outside retirement home in WA - KPTV - FOX 12

Woman froze to death outside retirement home in WA

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An 88-year-old woman was found frozen to death outside of her Longview retirement home.  

The Canterbury Garden Memory Care Community staff confirms to FOX 12 that Norma Jeannette Sheldon was found by staff early Friday morning outside of the facility in the courtyard.

An autopsy was conducted over the weekend, and the cause of death was determined to be hypothermia, said Chief Deputy Coroner Brett Dundas on Monday morning. The manner of death was declared an accident.

Dundas tells FOX 12 there was no sign that Norma Sheldon had fallen, struck her head or was otherwise physically unable to return inside.

The temperature at the time Norma Sheldon was discovered was 28 degrees, he said.

Norma Sheldon was diagnosed with dementia years ago. Her husband said she's been known to wander at the retirement home before, and has even injured herself doing so.

But nothing would ever prepare him to receive such painful news like this, he said.

"They called me and told me they found my wife in the fetal position, frozen" said Don Sheldon. "It's a hard thing to stomach."

Don Sheldon was married to his wife for 68 years. He remembers the day they met perfectly.

"I saw this little blonde girl; her hair was blowing all the way to the belt line, her eyes as beautiful as you've ever seen, and I just fell in love with her right then," said Don Sheldon.

"I have so many wonderful memories of her because she was a wonderful wife," he said. "We never once fought in 68 years."

He's coping with her death the best that he can but missing his love dearly. And until they meet again, Don Sheldon remembers.

"I have so many memories at night. I can just close my eyes and flip my mind to whatever chapter I want, and I can just remember her. I see her as beautiful as she is, and she's never changed in my mind," said Don Sheldon.

The Canterbury Gardens released a statement to FOX 12:

"We are very, very sorry that this tragedy occurred, and our hearts go out to her family. They are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this time."

Administrators also confirm they have licensed nurses on site at the facility 24-7, so they aren't quite sure how this could have happened. 

The Department of Social Health Services is investigating. 

Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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