Killing of 93-year-old woman shakes Stamford residents
STAMFORD — The killing of 93-year-old Isabella Mehner on Cove Road Wednesday has neighbors on edge.
“That’s scary,” a neighbor who declined to be named from nearby Willowbrook Avenue said Friday morning. “That makes me feel unsafe here. I locked all my doors and windows last night. That is just crazy.”
Police said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Mehner’s death a homicide Thursday afternoon because the injuries that resulted in her death after falling down her basement stairs were not consistent with her cause of death.
Police said the time she was killed appears to be between 3 and 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“The cause of death is blunt force trauma to her head, which could have resulted from a fall, but the medical examiner’s office doesn’t think the fall would have caused that much blunt force trauma, ” said Bureau of Criminal Investigations Lt. Michael Noto. “Do we know what would have caused this much blunt force trauma if it wasn’t the fall down the stairs? We don’t know that.”
Noto said there were some personal items of Mehner’s that have gone missing.
“Mrs. Mehner was a very organized person and her home was pristine,” Noto said. “There were a few things that the family noticed that were missing, but the house was not ransacked.”
He said the missing items have raised investigators’ suspicions that Mehner was a victim of foul play.
For neighbors in the area, Noto asked that they let police know if they saw anything unusual over the past few days.
“Be cognizant of who is around,” the lieutenant said. “They should lock their doors and take every day safety precautions and be aware of their surroundings.”
Neighbors said the slightly down-on-its-heels neighborhood of single and multifamily homes has undergone big changes over the years. Mehner’s well-kept home, which she and her late husband Edward lived in since about 1956, was a bright spot across the street from the end of Blachley Road, the busy entrance to Chelsea Piers.
Another neighbor, who declined to give her name, said teenagers come down the street sometimes checking to see if cars have been left unlocked, but police said there are very few home burglaries in the neighborhood.
The neighbor said she was at home early Wednesday afternoon when she saw what appeared to be a fight in Mehner’s driveway involving some young boys and girls. She said she saw Mehner come out and talk to the kids. Whatever was going on broke up after Mehner came outside, the neighbor said.
In general, the neighbor, who moved onto Willowbrook 13 years ago, said Mehner was always out in her yard working and walking around.
“She was a nice lady. Every morning she was gardening and walking. She was up at 6:30 in the morning taking the garbage out and cleaning up every day,” she said.
Mehner’s daughter Sandra Manzke said she does not know what to think about her mother’s death.
“I don’t have any of the facts,” said Manzke, who has a farm in Vermont. “Was it someone she knew and opened up the door for?”
Manzke said because her mother worked out in her yard so much, it would not be difficult for someone paying attention to tell that she lived there all alone. Manzke said she and her brothers and sisters wanted their mother to move somewhere else, but she refused.
“She said she loved her house, and said, ‘I’m never leaving it.’ She loved her garden,” her daughter said.
Manzke said it was only two years ago that her mother stopped shoveling snow and mowing the lawn herself. But she still kept busy in the yard.
“My mother was an incredible person. She was so active,” Manzke said. “She remained active every day of her life. She used to say if you don’t move, that’s not good.”
Daughter-in-law Kathy Mehner, who lives in Stamford, said Mehner was a powerhouse around her yard.
“Anybody who knew her, knew her garden was just beautiful. She was out there every day. Her yard was perfect, magazine picture perfect,” Kathy Mehner said.
Former Board of Finance Chairman Joe Tarzia, who lives near Mehner, said he saw her a week and a half ago.
“The people who knew her are in shock,” Tarzia said. “She was a nice lady. I would go by sometimes and knock on her door to say hello.”
Until recently, Mehner still drove, he said. Lately she could be seen walking in her yard with a cane.
“She would be out snipping the rose bushes. She loved her roses,” Tarzia said. “Over the years, if there was a lot of snow I would send my sons over to help her shovel her little driveway. Once she got water in her basement and we went over to help her clean up. She was such a nice lady.”
The neighborhood has changed since the Mehner’s arrived on Willowbrook, Tarzia said.
“There are a lot of illegal apartments, a lot of cars parked in the street,” he said. “What used to be a two-family house now is a three-family or a four-family. The city needs to do a better job with zoning enforcement.”
There are “a lot of good people in the neighborhood,” he said, “and a few bad apples.”
Mehner “was not afraid to speak her mind,” Tarzia said. “She looked out for the neighborhood. She was willing to speak up for improving the area, and she made that known.”
It’s difficult now to see the TV news trucks all around her house, Tarzia said.
“It’s a sad moment,” he said.
Staff writer Angela Carella contributed to this story.