Hope Wheaton and her older sister, Lynda Waldman, grew up together in a stately Brookline home, where they lived quietly by themselves until Wheaton, 67, vanished about a year and a half ago.
Neighbors on Clinton Road took notice and began asking Waldman, 74, about her sister.
“We always asked where she was,” said Harriet Allen, a neighbor on the street and longtime friend of Wheaton’s. “She would ignore it.”
Then a cousin of the sisters made a startling discovery last month during a visit to their home at 122 Clinton Road: Wheaton lay dead in the kitchen of the $1.2 million house amid heavy clutter.
Her body was in a state of significant decomposition, officials said Wednesday.
The circumstances of Wheaton’s death, including how long her body was in the home, are under investigation.
But the body’s condition “was consistent with a report” that she died in the summer of 2015, said David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.
Traub did not say who provided that report to law enforcement officials. He also did not identify the siblings, but their names were confirmed through records and by Allen in a phone interview.
Wheaton’s death is a mystery, but Traub said her body showed no obvious signs of trauma. He declined to comment when asked why Waldman did not contact police immediately after her sister’s death. She has not been charged with any crimes, he said.
“We don’t have evidence of wrongdoing at this point,” Traub said. “We don’t have evidence of foul play. . . . Our investigation remains open.”
The medical examiner has not released the cause and manner of Wheaton’s death, he said.
Felix Browne, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees the medical examiner, said results of the autopsy are pending.
The discovery of Wheaton’s body was first reported by the Brookline TAB newspaper.
A Brookline police spokesman referred questions to Morrissey’s office.
Wheaton’s relatives, including Waldman, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.
The house was built in 1920, and is listed in “fair” condition, according to the town’s most recent property records.
Allen said the sisters “never came out” of their house. “They were recluses.”
Despite that, Allen said she knew the sisters well and was friendly with Wheaton, who did some type of computer work from home.
Neither sister was married, but a cousin came to visit regularly, Allen said.
Wheaton was “bright and alert and fun. And we enjoyed each other,” Allen said.
Waldman is “a very bright woman, very well-read, very up on the politics of the day, to this day,” she added.
Allen noted that Waldman often has not looked well. She said she could not recall any health problems Wheaton had before her death.
“Usually it was Hope who was healthy, and Lynda who looked like she was ill,” Allen said. “It became reversed somewhere along the line.”
The sisters’ house is in “total disrepair,” according to Allen.
“You should take pictures of it,” she said. “The windows have always been covered up completely. I don’t know if daylight ever got in there.”
As the sisters became more reclusive, Allen said, she “absolutely” worried about their well-being. She was shocked to learn Wheaton may have been lying dead in the family home for such a long period of time.
“I loved Hope,” she said. “I don’t know what to say about this.”