Brandt Basile walked up to the squat, dark-blue home on Trull Street on Wednesday, slid the mail into the slot and held it there for a moment, waiting for a woman who lived there to pull it in — like she always did.
But this time, she didn’t. And when Basile thought about it, he said, he realized she had not taken the mail from him for several days. He spotted water leaking from the side of the home, and the 13-year veteran mail carrier knew then that something was wrong. He crossed the street to a neighbor’s home and asked him to call the police.
A short time later, at 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, two elderly women were found dead inside the Dorchester home, apparently from natural causes, police said.
Just how long the women had been dead is just as much a mystery as they were.
The two women, according to public records, were 77-year-old Imogene M. Larry and her 72-year-old sister, Rosa M. Larry. They were independent, neighbors said, often seen in past years raking their yard, sweeping the street, and lugging trash bins to the curb, and occasionally shoveling snow. During the winter they never asked for help, but residents on the block chipped in anyway, and took turns shoveling their walkway. As of late, neighbors said, they only saw one woman.
Their block was the scene of two homicides both in 2011 and 2012.
The women kept to themselves and didn’t communicate much with their neighbors; many didn’t even know their names.
“I knew everybody all over the place, but I don’t know the people next to me,” said Jesse Lorenzo, 26, who often shoveled snow for his neighbors during the winter months. “They’re an enigma. You don’t know anything about them.”
The sisters moved into the house 35 years ago, said 78-year-old Robert Lee Vicks, who has lived on the block for 39 years. A brother, Avery, who was described as the sociable one of the three siblings, also lived there. He died in 2005.
“They didn’t associate with anyone on the street,” Vicks said.
Neighbors said the women were notorious for dumping trash, pouring coffee, or even scratching the paint on any vehicle left parked in front of their house or driveway.
“Don’t ever park in her driveway,” said neighbor Aleida Nunez, 55. “She’d come out and key your car. She would say, ‘Move the car out of my driveway!’ ”
Vicks said one of the women poured ammonia onto the hood of his nephew’s car when he made the mistake of parking there years ago.
“They thought they owned that part of the street,” said Lisa Gray, 59, who lives across the street from their property.
Tido Crawford recalled that as a child, whenever his football landed in their yard the women would scowl and take it into the house. Crawford said he would never see that football again.
Gray said she and one of the women would often take the bus together. Gray learned the woman was preparing to retire more than a year ago, and was caring for her sister, who was ill.
Reached by phone at her home in North Carolina, a woman who identified herself as Jeddie, another sister of the women, said she last spoke with them in early February, before Boston’s record snowfalls.
“We usually would talk every Sunday,” she said. Since then, however, “I haven’t been able to reach them.”
Jeddie said one of her sisters had dementia, and the eldest was caring for her.
Basile, the letter carrier, said he noticed a horrid, indescribable smell about two months ago when he popped open the slot to slide in the mail. Also around then, one of the sisters seemed to disappear from view.
“I used to see the sisters, but for the last two months, I only saw one in the streets,” he said, adding he suspected something was wrong. “I feel really bad. That’s what we’re being trained for . . . to look out for our customers.”
Their deaths remain under investigation, said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
The city’s commissioner of elderly affairs, Emily Shea, said her agency does its best to reach out to older residents who have used city services in the past, or those who have been referred by a concerned neighbor or friend. It was unclear whether the two sisters had used any public services.
Gray said she worried recently when she saw one of the women with her legs swollen and wrapped in duct tape. Then, she and other neighbors grew concerned when they hadn’t seen the two women for a while. She said she called the police in February, but officers told her that no one answered the door.
“It just wasn’t right for them to die without anyone knowing they died,” Gray said with tears in her eyes. “It broke my heart. They were a mystery living over there without wanting to know anybody . . . You’ve got to know somebody. Somebody’s got to come to your rescue.”
Officials encourage anyone who is concerned about an elderly neighbor to call 800-AGE-INFO or 617-292-6211.