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Long-dead man found in Tarentum high-rise

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Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 3:18 p.m.

The body of an elderly Tarentum man who may have been dead for weeks was found on Thursday inside his apartment in a public housing high-rise.

Nicholas Cognito, 79, was found inside his locked, third-floor apartment in Rachel Carson Hall, Second Avenue at Wood Street, said Allegheny County Public Housing Authority police Chief Mike Vogel.

According to Tarentum police, two officers and an Eureka Fire Co. paramedic entered the apartment on Thursday at the request of the housing authority after an employee who was checking on Cognito's welfare found his body.The police report said the man was in the living room and had been dead for quite some time.

Vogel and Tarentum police said there was no indication of foul play.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office is reviewing the situation.

Several Rachel Carson Hall neighbors, none of whom would allow their names to be used, said Cognito had been a U.S. Marine and was hard of hearing.

Vogel said Cognito had lived at Rachel Carson Hall, which has 60 efficiency and one-bedroom units, for about 10 years.Numerous residents said on Friday that they had not seen Cognito recently and were dismayed he hadn't been found sooner.

Vogel said a building manager and a maintenance employee entered the apartment about three weeks ago after a request was made to check on his welfare.

“He wasn't there,” Vogel said.

Vogel said the authority, in order to preserve privacy rights, can't by law enter an apartment without a legal reason.After that previous check, packages began to pile up at the man's door, but officials said a relative or friend took them away for safekeeping.

One man said he thought Cognito was a patient in a Veterans' Administration hospital.

On Thursday, after some additional complaints were made about an “unusual odor,” the authority asked borough police to check, Vogel said.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or

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