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New London — The body of a 58-year-old man with a penchant for bringing fresh flowers to one of the employees at the local homeless shelter was discovered July 12 behind a downtown apartment complex, police confirmed on Friday.
Richard Oliveri, whose cause of death police said appears to be from natural causes, was found in a storage area outside the Crocker House, which is at the corner of State and Union streets.
His body, discovered on the afternoon of July 12 during Sailfest, was taken for an autopsy to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Results of toxicology reports are pending. New London Police Deputy Chief Peter G. Reichard said there were no outward signs of trauma.
Based on the stage of decomposition, Reichard said that Oliveri's body appeared to have been there for several days.
Cathy Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, said Oliveri was a fixture in the New London area for years but that his health had deteriorated. After spending time at a nursing home and being away for several years, Zall said he had reappeared suddenly. Oliveri was frail and using a walker.
"We had not expected to see him," Zall said. "We admitted him right away. He was frail, very sick. I don't know what happened between the last time we saw him … but I'm sorry to hear it ended."
At the St. James overnight shelter on Federal Street, worker Celida Baez said Oliveri would occasionally bring her flowers that he picked himself.
"He used to tell us stories of how he owned a flower shop on Fishers Island," Baez said. "He was a real lovable person and always showed me lots of respect."
Baez said Oliveri always knew what type of flowers he had and would give her tips on their care.
"I'm sorry he's gone," Baez said. "He was here when we first opened the shelter years ago, about nine years ago. He'd leave, we wouldn't see him for a while. That was how Rich was."
Baez said the last time she saw Oliveri, known to have a drinking problem, was around July 4 and he had been taken to the hospital by ambulance for unknown medical reasons. What happened after that time is unclear.