Sheriff's deputies arrived and broke down the door to find the body of 67-year-old James Stacey in a makeshift bedroom in an old Beaufort warehouse.
It had been decomposing for nearly three months after his death. No one had dropped by to check on him. No one had noticed his absence.
It was a lonely death, surmised Beaufort County coroner Ed Allen.
He and Deputy Coroner Janet Horton tried for five months to find a family member or friend who could claim Stacey's remains.
They pored over documents and medical records. Stacey had a history of cancer and had made several trips to local hospitals. But he always listed himself as his emergency contact.
They talked to his landlord and neighbors and searched electronic databases. But they found no leads.
Stacey's cremated remains were added to the pile on the coroner's shelf in March of 2009.
Allen said he can't help but think of the man every time he passes the Trask Parkway warehouse in Beaufort. He has a story to tell. But no one can be found to tell it.
"He was true loner," Allen said.