HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Thursday, contractors remodeling a northeast Houston home uncovered a grim discovery beneath the floorboards: a set of skeletal remains.
People who live near the dilapidated home under restoration on the 5700 block of Rietta Street said the last person they remember living there was reported missing shortly after the winter storm in 2021.
Property records show 72-year-old Warren G Williams Jr. owned the home from 1988 until July 2021.
Williams' long-time neighbor, Jose Esparza, said he and his family helped the older man who lived alone in the dilapidated home.
"You see the electric cord over there? We used to run the electric cord over there so he could have light in all the rooms," Esparza said.
He described Williams as "very weak" and said he used a walker to get around.
Esparza said in February 2021, he went to Mexico to see family. His children stayed behind and planned to help Williams. When the historic winter storm hit mid-February, Esparza's children went to another location after losing power. They were not able to take their neighbor with them.
When they returned about three days after the storm, they could not find Williams. Esparza said they never saw him again.
He had a key to Williams's home and checked for his longtime neighbor. He found his wallet still in the house but no sign of the Vietnam veteran.
In June of 2021, he filed a missing person report with Houston police when he saw a "for sale" sign in the yard of Williams' home.
"How it's for sale?" Esparza asked. "We don't know where he is? How is the house? We never knew who put the house for sale."
He still has never been able to figure it out. Esparza said at one point, he was told to stay away from the property.
Police said they investigated the missing person but could not ever get in touch with any of Williams's family.
It is unclear if the skeletal remains belong to Williams.
"We are so shocked, but we don't know if it was him or not," Esparza said.
Houston police nor ABC13 have had any luck figuring out what happened to the 72-year-old. Attempts to track him and his relatives down all led to dead ends. Autopsy results will hopefully reveal whether a remodeling crew may have found a long-lost neighbor under the home's floorboards on Thursday afternoon.
HPD homicide division is working with the medical examiner's office to identify the remains and a cause of death. Neighbors said they never noticed any signs that would lead them to believe there was a body under the home, so they were shocked to hear about it on the news earlier today.
"I never heard of a body under the floorboard before. I didn't know that was possible. I didn't. I'm hoping it wasn't foul play. I'm really hoping it was maybe from the freeze. Maybe they were trying to stay warm," Carolyn Gatterson said.
The neighborhood is just off Tidwell Road in northeast Houston.
According to homicide division detectives, patrol officers met with a remodeling crew who made the discovery. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences responded and retrieved the remains.
As of Friday, the remains' identity, gender, and cause of death were still pending verification.
Police did not disclose how long the remains were there before the crew came upon them.