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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Twins arrested after mother’s body found in home

    Twin brothers Edward and Edwin Berndt were trying to watch the BCS Championship college football game in the living room of their southeast Houston home on Jan. 10 when their elderly mother interrupted them.

    Sybil Berndt, 88, came in the room appearing delusional, ranting and raving that someone was going to break in to the house and steal their piano. That’s what the 48-year-old twin brothers told police was happening when their mother allegedly fell down and did not get up.

    The brothers — deciding they did not have money for medical treatment — told police they left their mother on the floor, without food or water. Three days later, she died, still lying on that floor.

    For almost the next three months, the brothers continued to live in the home with their mother’s body on the floor, decomposing more and more by the day. On Monday, both men were arrested and charged with felony murder.

    “”This was definitely a lot different than the average case that we get,”” said Houston Police Department Sgt. R. Torres, who is investigating the case.

    Both men are being held in the Harris County jail on bail of $500,000 each. They are expected to appear in court today.

    A/C was turned off

    Sybil Berndt’s body was discovered by an officer, who came to the family’s home in the 8400 block of Glenscot around 4:30 p.m. Monday after a concerned neighbor, Jessica Delpino, called police to make a welfare check on the elderly woman.

    Once the brothers let her inside, the officer found Berndt’s body lying face-down in the front foyer. She was wearing only a nightgown pulled up just under her arms. Her body was in an advanced stage of decomposition.

    Torres said the air conditioning had been turned off, creating a stagnant heat while the stench of rotting flesh filled the home. He described the scene as putrid and deplorable.

    “”You normally wouldn’t be able to withstand that smell for more than one minute, two at the most, without heaving your insides out,”” he said.

    Edwin and Edward, who were wearing matching flannel pajama bottoms when police arrived at the home, told investigators they had not left the house for the past three months, surviving on a junk food diet consisting of potato chips, candy and popcorn.

    “”They just stepped over her all day, everyday,”” Torres said.

    Because they did not have money for a funeral, the brothers told police investigators they continued to leave her on the floor.

    Died day after turning 89

    Edwin Berndt told investigators that his mother was conscious and able to speak for about a day after she fell. He told investigators he remembers that his mother died Jan. 13 because it was a day after her 89th birthday.

    “”They didn’t seem to have any real remorse for their mother,”” Torres said. “”I think they were more concerned with what was going to happen to them.””

    Torres said both men spoke clearly with a bit of Southern drawl and seemed fairly intelligent. Both men graduated from high school — Edwin attended Milby High School, while Edward went to Lyndon B. Johnson High where he was in a program for gifted children.

    When they spoke to investigators, they wore blank stares. Both men told investigators they never tried to help their mother, Torres said. When investigators asked them why, their reply: She never asked us to.

    Residents of Meadowbrook Freeway, where the Berndts lived, were astonished to learn what had happened to Sybil Berndt, a woman they described as a kind-hearted person, who went out of her way to help others and would often spend hours with ill neighbors so their spouses could go run errands.

    Many of the residents of the quiet neighborhood became concerned as they saw little activity at the one-story, ranch-style home over the last few months. Several neighbors called the house, but no one answered. Some came to the home, but they never received any reply to their knocks.

    Delpino, the neighbor, eventually called Adult Protective Services, who recommended she call police. She, like others in the neighborhood, was shocked by what police found.

    “”It’s kind of deranged that they were living in house with her dead like that,”” she said.

    Mother had lots of money

    Most residents said they knew little about the family. They would occasionally see Sybil Berndt at civic club events, which she attended less after her husband died from Alzheimer’s in 2007.

    Investigators found bank statements showing that Sybil Berndt had several hundred thousand dollars in her accounts. Neither Edwin nor Edward Berndt had held a job for several years. Torres said the family owned ranch property that they rented out, which made up most of their income.

    Neighbors said they occasionally saw the twins in the front yard raking leaves and mowing the lawn, never bothering anyone. Neighbors were surprised to see the brothers, who were always clean cut and freshly shaven, clad with bushy dark beards and unkempt hair.

    “”I would have never expected this to happen because they seemed very docile,”” said 75-year-old Jim Scott, who lives across the street from the family.

    Segundo Abrego III, 18, also said the brothers seemed harmless, always keeping to themselves.

    He could tell something was wrong when he saw several police cars around the Berndts’ home Monday afternoon.

    “”I didn’t know what to expect,”” he said. “”But I wasn’t expecting this.””

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