A Vietnam veteran was found dead in his Brooklyn home yesterday -- months after neighbors began complaining to the city about an unbearable smell coming from the apartment.
, 62, was often seen pushing himself around in his wheelchair at the Breukelen Houses in Canarsie, where he lived for 17 years, until late January when he mysteriously disappeared
, neighbors said.
EMS workers, dispatched to the building by an anonymous 911 call, found his badly decomposed body at 11 a.m. after breaking down the door.
Gales appeared to have been dead for months, a police source said.
Neighbors began noticing the horrific stench
coming from Gales' first-floor apartment around the time he disappeared and placed calls to the Health Department, police and Housing Authority to complain.
But the frustrated tenants said they got no response.
Legions of flies overtook the hallway, which reeked so badly that it made neighbors ill.
Jina Perkins said she set up rolls of fly-tape every morning before leaving for work. By the time she came home, they were completely covered in insects.
"My kid started to get sick and nobody did anything," she fumed.
Gales' cousin, who lives on the sixth floor, noticed he had disappeared, but eventually abandoned the search.
"When he went missing, we assumed he was in the [VA] hospital. We checked the hospital, but couldn't find him there," said Debra Gholson. "He was a nice, well-liked guy."
Gales' brother, Kenneth, said he went to visit his brother almost 50 times over the past six months, but never got a response.
"I'd go there and couldn't get in," said Kenneth. "[Building management] told me they didn't have the authority to let me into the apartment if I didn't have a key.
The medical examiner is set to perform an autopsy today to determine an official cause of death, but sources said it appears Gales died of natural causes.
A NYPD spokesman said cops visited the apartment several times and Gales even let them in on occasion. But the spokesman couldn't say the last time they saw him alive or checked the apartment.
Gales suffered leg injuries in a subway accident 28 years ago. He developed gangrene as a result, but stubbornly refused to have his diseased limbs amputated.
"He told me, 'I came into this world with two legs, and I'll go out with two legs,' " Perkins said.
Housing Authority spokesman Howard Marder said the incident was under investigation.