Woman charged $30,000 on dead man's credit cards, police say

Police identify man buried in Dayton basement

DAYTON, Ky. – Police have made a major breakthrough in the investigation of a badly decomposed body hidden in a Sixth Avenue home.

Steven Reis, 55, was found dead under the home's basement. He was an Air Force veteran suffering from several medical issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and diabetes; Reis had stopped going to a Veterans Affairs clinic last September.

The home was rented to Christy Russell, 40, who was Reis' caregiver. According to Dayton Police Chief David Halfhill, she stole his military benefits and put nearly $30,000 on his credit card over the course of about nine months, during which time Reis was dead.

"She knew he was deceased and was continuing to use his credit card, which he was getting retirement funds through the United States Air Force," Halfhill said.

Christy Russell

Russell has been charged with tampering with evidence and credit card fraud. Halfhill said this isn't her first run-in with police.

"She lives in Dayton, but actually she stays at other places," he said. "She's been from Covington, she's been in Newport. Nothing violent in her history -- it's just been all thefts, credit card thefts and other things like that, involving depriving people of money."

Investigators weren't able to the identify Reis sooner because the body was so decomposed it was “unrecognizable.” Police found the body after getting a tip about it.

"The body was in a position where it was very difficult to get to, so we had to do some work,” Halfhill said.

An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine cause of death.  

"We need a determination of death to see where we are going to move forward with this," Halfhill said. "If we can't get a cause of death, then it is going to be hard to prove that a murder took place -- if it did take place."

Russell is being held on $7,500 bond.

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