Newspaper Carrier Finds Woman Pinned by Husband's Dead Body

By: Jim Suhr
By: Jim Suhr

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Newspaper carrier Bruce Pitts knew the elderly couple only by the prayers the wife made for him while he was working at night and in bad weather, but he felt something was wrong when the papers piled up outside their home.

"It was never like them to leave a newspaper in their tube," Pitt said Tuesday. "That wonderful, small voice inside me said, `This isn't right.'"

After his route early Sunday, Pitts went home, napped briefly and, with his wife, returned to Blanche and Fred Roberts' home, just outside Marion, Ill.

They repeatedly rang the doorbells but got no answer. Pitts then eased open an unlocked side door and saw the couple about two feet inside, 84-year-old Blanche Roberts helpless looking right back at Pitts.

Her right leg was pinned beneath the body of her 77-year-old husband Fred, who apparently had died last Wednesday evening of a heart attack after mowing the lawn.

"The good Lord was with her. She was not scared, wasn't panicking," Pitts said during a telephone interview. "She was conscious, talking. Just peaceful. It was remarkable."

Her only request was for water. She knew her name and her relatives, but described her husband as "sleeping," said Pitts, who delivers the Southern Illinoisan, published in nearby Carbondale, Ill.

Pitts described Blanche Roberts as frail and petite. Fred Roberts was a "good-sized man," according to Williamson County, Ill., coroner Mike Burke, though he declined to be specific.

The coronoer said Fred Roberts likely died of a heart attack, based on accounts from the Roberts' visitors that day.

"They said he was really beet-red in the face, that he didn't look good," Burke said.

Blanche Roberts was taken to a hospital in nearby Herrin. The hospital on Tuesday wouldn't confirm whether she still was being treated there; Pitts said the couple's relatives told his wife Monday that she was doing fine.

Pitts has delivered on that route for three years but said he never met the Robertses before Sunday. But he thinks fondly of Blanche Roberts, who often tipped him in letters and was known to Pitts and his wife as "The Prayer Lady."

In her missives, "Blanche would say, `I've been praying for you at night whenever the weather's bad, realizing you're out in it delivering our papers,'" Pitts said. "We'd always say a little prayer back."

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