Residents of a north-end Hamilton neighbourhood are struggling to understand how a woman and her six children lived with the body of her dead husband and their father in their home for months.

The body of Peter Wald, 51, was discovered in his home on St. Matthews Avenue, off of Barton Street East, on Tuesday. An employee from a foreclosure company found the body when trying to evict Wald and his family.

Regional coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough told CBC Hamilton that Wald’s body had been found in an “advanced state of decomposition.”

“Evidence suggests he’d been dead for weeks, if not months,” Stanborough said.

Next-door neighbour Brenda Dennis is convinced Wald had been dead for at least four months.

“The house has been closed all summer with that body in there,” she said.

The last time Dennis or her husband Brian saw Wald was back in January, when he was getting out of his blue Astro van — his prized possession. Wald, a spiritual man, had painted it all over with religious slogans. He’d even placed tinfoil in the shape of crosses on the headlights so they shone in the shape of a crucifix, Brian said.

“He got out of the van, and he was having trouble walking,” Brian said. “We know he was diabetic — and that was the last we saw of him.”

At first, when the Dennises asked family members next door how Wald was doing, they were told, “Oh, he’s got the flu, he’s resting.” Then in March, they got a very different answer: “He’s in God’s hands now.”

“That’s the only answer you ever got,” Brenda said. “They didn’t say he was here, they didn’t say he was in the hospital, they didn’t say he was in a nursing home — and now, god, if the sheriff hadn’t come, how long would he have been up there?”

Stanborough said the coroner’s office and police are carrying out a joint investigation into Wald's death. Hamilton police did not respond to requests for information about the case Thursday.

According to a report in the Hamilton Spectator newspaper, no charges have been laid. No one answered at the home when a CBC Hamilton reporter knocked on Thursday.

The Dennises said odd behaviour around the home ramped up about four months ago. Hordes of flies could be seen around a second-floor window, and birds were pecking at the screen.

Family members also started dancing and chanting while wearing black robes in the back yard, sometimes twice a day, Brian said. One night in May, they saw family members painting over Wald’s van with rollers by flashlight.

“When they went and started painting it in the back yard, we knew damn well something was wrong,” Brian said.

Brenda said the Walds and their children lived in the home for at least 10 years. Despite the recent strange behaviour, they are mourning the loss of a kind neighbour they never really got to say goodbye to.

“He’d fix kids’ bikes. He’d cut people’s grass,” Brenda said. “And now no one can say goodbye.

“It’s so bizarre.”