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Man buries mom in yard, spends her Social Security on toilet seat invention, cops say

A 97-year-old Arizona woman was last seen in December 2018 — and now local authorities have figured out where she went.

Daniel Shannon, 66, buried his mother Leonie Shannon in the backyard of a San Tan Valley home after the woman died on Dec. 21 rather than reporting his mother’s death, according to a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office news release. That meant that he could keep collecting his mother’s VA and Social Security benefits even though she had died, deputies said.

Shannon was arrested Wednesday on charges of fraud and concealment of a body, though he could face further charges in the ongoing investigation, deputies said.

“Shannon told detectives that he needed to keep getting the benefits to help pay for the patent on his invention,” authorities said.

Asked what the patent was for, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Navideh Forghani wrote “here is the invention” in an email to McClatchy and shared a link to a 2008 news article with the title “Man invents self-closing toilet.”

That article in the Loveland, Colorado, Herald-Reporter said that Shannon “created a self-closing, self-contained toilet seat, the Smart Lid, which is powered by kinetic energy from lifting the lid, requires no electricity and can be installed like any standard toilet seat.”

“Most of my life, I’ve had women complaining about leaving the toilet seat up,” Shannon said, explaining what spurred the invention, according to the newspaper.

Deputies started looking into the woman’s disappearance April 5 after someone became concerned and reported that the woman had not been seen since last year.

Shannon, who was his mother’s caretaker, told deputies that day that “his mother walked away from the home” on Dec. 21, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“He claimed this was not the first time his mother disappeared, adding that they just started getting her VA benefits and did not want to report her missing on the off chance that she returned home,” deputies said.

But Shannon’s story kept shifting as deputies investigated the missing woman, and he confessed on Wednesday to burying his mother after she passed away last year, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives found a body in the backyard while serving a search warrant and a medical examiner is set to identify the remains and establish the cause of death, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“These types of cases are especially troublesome when the crimes involve family members,” Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said in a statement.

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