Couple found dead in South Carolina home with temperature reaching 120 F

A man adjusts the thermostat of a gas-fired radiator in Toulouse, south-western France on October 26, 2022. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

An elderly couple found dead in their South Carolina home where the temperature was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) had trouble with their furnace days before their deaths, their family told police.

Family members called Spartanburg police Saturday after not hearing from the couple for three days. A police officer and a paramedic found Joan Littlejohn, 84, and Glennwood Fowler, 82, dead in their bedroom after entering through an unlocked window, authorities said.

A paramedic tried to get the body temperatures of the couple, but the device was only able to register up to 106 F (41.1 C), well above the temperature where people are advised to go to the emergency room.

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Firefighters estimated the temperature in the home at 120 F (49 C) even after the doors had been open to cold outdoor air for 20 minutes. They also checked for carbon dioxide levels, which weren't particularly high, according to the police report.

The couple had complained Wednesday that their furnace and water heater were not working, so family members visited and got the furnace pilot light turned on before leaving. It was the last time they saw the couple, police said.

Firefighters said the furnace in the basement looked like it was on fire before they turned it off Saturday and estimated its internal temperature at 1,000 F (538 C), police said.

The first officer was on the scene for two-and-a-half hours. He wrote when he left, the home's thermostat was working again and read 96 F (35.5 C).

Investigators plan an autopsy and other tests to determine exactly what killed the couple, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said in a statement.