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Utility Bill Unpaid, Senior Froze To Death

A 93-year-old man froze to death inside his home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills, officials said.

Marvin E. Schur died "a slow, painful death," said Kanu Virani, Oakland County's deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy.

Neighbors discovered Schur's body on Jan. 17. They said the indoor temperature was below 32 degrees at the time, The Bay City Times reported Monday.

"Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly," Virani said. "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning."

A city utility worker had installed a "limiter" device to restrict the use of electricity at Schur's home on Jan. 13, said Bay City Manager Robert Belleman. The device limits power reaching a home and blows out like a fuse if consumption rises past a set level. Power is not restored until the device is reset.

There was no word Monday whether the device had blown out or confirmation of the amount Schur owed to Bay City Electric Light & Power; city officials did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Belleman said he didn't know if anyone made personal contact with Schur to explain how the device works.

The body was discovered by neighbor George Pauwels Jr., who said Schur had almost $1,100 in unpaid electric bills. Pauwels told the newspaper he saw cash clipped to those bills on the kitchen table on the day he found Schur's body.

"His furnace was not running, the insides of his windows were full of ice the morning we found him," Pauwels told the Bay City News.

Belleman said city workers keep the limiter on houses for 10 days, then shut off power entirely if the homeowner hasn't paid utility bills or arranged to do so.

He said Bay City Electric Light & Power's policies will be reviewed, but he didn't believe the city did anything wrong.

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."

Schur had no children and his wife had died several years ago.

Bay City is on Saginaw Bay, just north of the city of Saginaw in central Michigan.

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