A health inspector investigating complaints of a foul odor discovered a badly decomposed body wedged inside a chimney at the Kent Linens Warehouse Outlet in Highlandtown, police say.
Workers at the store in the 3500 block of Eastern Ave. had been bothered by the smell for several months but had been unable to locate its source until yesterday, when the Baltimore Health Department was called in to investigate.
"I called the Health Department . . . and the agent looked where the odor was coming from in the chimney and saw legs in there" at the base of the chimney, said the store manager, who asked not to be identified.
For months, the manager said, he hadn't known what was causing the smell. "We even called the exterminator; nobody could tell us what happened."
The body was clothed and wearing tennis shoes, police said. It was removed about 2 p.m. and taken to the state medical examiner's office, where its identity will be determined.
Police said they couldn't determine if it was a man or a woman.
"The body was almost like what you would think a mummy would be," said Sgt. Lester Geesey, of the Southeastern District. "It was in dirt and bones."
"It appears to have been a burglar going through the chimney and got stuck in there," said Sgt. Gerald Goldstein, of the homicide unit.
Geesey said the body apparently became lodged in the brick chimney as the person tried to climb down to the bottom to get into the store.
Geesey said the chimney narrowed to 10 by 14 inches "and he got stuck. He had almost made it to the bottom."
In addition to the smell, which was noticeable next door at a five-and-dime store, flies and maggots were problems, too, said Geesey.
Geesey said the store owner had the chimney capped in July because he thought pigeon droppings were causing the smell.
However, yesterday "was the first time someone looked and saw a pair of feet," Geesey said.
"Everybody could smell the odor, but didn't know what it was," Geesey added.