FLINT (WWJ/AP) – A preliminary autopsy shows an 86-year-old Flint man found dead in his truck three days after a utility turned off electrical service to his home died of existing heart and lung problems as well as hypothermia, police said.
A final autopsy won’t be completed for at least a month on the body of John Morgan, who was found Monday just outside his home, The Flint Journal reported. A shutoff notice on his door from Consumers Energy shows he owned $291.
Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said the home had natural gas service, and company representatives who went to the home before electricity was turned off couldn’t contact anyone. The Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. subsidiary says it’s cooperating with police.
Marlene Broadnax, 47, a cousin of Morgan’s, said he took care of everybody in the family over the years and “would do anything for anybody.” She was angry to hear that the power was shut off over a $291 bill.
“I’m thinking, ‘$300? Are you serious?’ If I knew, I could have sent the money,” she said. “I’m quite sure he had the money.”
Consumers Energy officials told the newspaper that Morgan could have avoided a winter shutoff regardless of what he owed if he had told the company he was a senior citizen.
State laws enacted in 2009 protect municipal utility customers from having their electricity and natural gas shut off. The measures were prompted by the death that year of Marvin Schur, a 93-year-old Bay City man who froze inside his home after Bay City Electric Light & Power installed a power-limiting device because of unpaid bills.
The laws require municipal utilities to make efforts to identify customers who are 65 or older, and require the state to give utilities information about people who have applied for or are receiving public assistance so they can be helped to reduce energy costs and prevent shutoffs.
Michigan’s big, state-regulated utilities such as DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, along with cooperatives, are not allowed to shut off power to senior citizens in the winter and must offer payment plans to the poor.
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