Wife charged for not reporting husband’s death, collecting his benefits

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Formal charges were filed in Tippecanoe County Thursday against a Lafayette woman accused of keeping her husband’s dead body in her home for nine months and collecting his Social Security and Veteran’s Affairs benefits.

According to court documents, Ila Solomon is facing nine charges, including failure to report a dead body, unlawful disposition of a dead human body, failure to file a certificate of death, welfare fraud and theft.

Ila Solomon (Photo Provided/Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office)
Ila Solomon (Photo Provided/Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office)

As News 18 previously reported, Gerald “Scooter” Gavan’s autopsy showed he had been dead in his home since July of 2013. Although the coroner said all tests show it to be a correct date of death, his widow, Solomon, said it wasn’t true. Gavan’s body was discovered on May 3, 2014.

In an interview with News 18 in June, Solomon said Gavan died on the living room floor, and she was unable to move him outside. The 54-year-old widow said she didn’t recall the next several hours after Gavan’s death.

“I don’t remember a whole lot, but then I remember it was nighttime. I was still sitting in the chair, and I opened up the door, and I could hear the vultures outside,” added Solomon.

According to prosecutors, on May 3, 2014, a Lafayette police officer talked to someone who knew Gavan, after that person became concerned that he hadn’t seen Gavan in several months. Court documents state that when the man tried getting together with Gavan for their annual Christmas gathering, Solomon said Gavan was “touring the country in an RV with his sister.”

LPD officers went to Gavan’s house located at 854 Shawnee Avenue to conduct a well-being check. They said Solomon told them he wasn’t home and was at the Kentucky Derby. Prosecutors said she went on to tell officers she didn’t have a number or way to contact them.

When officers asked Solomon about Gavan’s health, Solomon said he had a stroke and had been in an assisted living facility. Documents state that when officers finally entered the home, they found a dead body, later identified as Gavan, that was “in an advanced stage of decay.”

According to prosecutors, Gavan was getting Veteran’s Affairs compensation benefits since June of 2008. Benefit payments in the amount of $258.83 a month were sent directly to Gavan’s checking account. A total of $2,569.15 was sent to Gavan since he had been dead.

Gavan was also receiving Social Security Administration benefits. According to court documents, a total of $12,877.50 was deposited into his checking account from Aug. 2, 2013, to May 2, 2014. Documents state that Solomon was not eligible for widow’s benefits and the payments should have terminated after Gavan’s death.

Court documents also state that Gavan was receiving pension benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. PBGC is a federal agency created to protect pension benefits in private-sector defined benefit plans.

Payments from PBGC were $928.75 per month, and were also deposited directly into Gavan’s checking account, according to prosecutors. A total of $10,211.25 was paid while he was dead.

According to court documents, Gavan’s pension was a straight life annuity, providing benefits for the rest of Gavan’s life with no survivor benefits, meaning Solomon was not entitled to any payments after his death.

Solomon was arrested Thursday at 7:15 p.m. in Lafayette and booked into the Tippecanoe County jail on Thursday.

A neighbor told New 18 he has been waiting months to see action taken against Solomon.

“I mean, at least she’s served with something, finally. You know, after months of not being served anything,” said Tyler Imel.

As of Friday evening, she was still behind bars and being held on a $5,000 surety bond.

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