CRETE – Otis Jack thought he lived behind a hoarder, but he never imagined the gruesome extent of it.
Jack was shocked last week to learn that his neighbor — Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who he knew as "George" — had kept 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains at the doctor's home in Crete Township.
It was common for several cars to be parked in the Klopfer's driveway, Jack said, noting he, and other neighbors never saw a car in the garage.
"I thought maybe he worked on cars or something, had a hobby," Jack said. "We all thought he was one of those hoarders."
Klopfer, who died Sept. 3, provided gynecological care, abortions and vasectomies at three clinics in Indiana. Once described as the state's most prolific abortion doctor, the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana suspended Klopfer’s license in November 2016 after finding he violated state law and regulations at his clinics. Officials from the Will County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that they had discovered the remains.
His neighbors were aware of his career and suspension, but they didn't know until last week the hoarding and overcluttered garage were signs of behavior that one of Klopfer's former colleagues called deranged behavior.
The condition of Klopfer's home stood out in the Willowbrook Estates neighborhood, an enclave of homes with large grassy lots set back from the street where home prices range from $175,000 to $350,000, just outside Crete, a city of 8,307 about 10 miles from the Indiana border and southeast of Chicago. The siding on the garage and house at the end of the cul-de-sac was worn or gone, giving an overall shabby appearance one neighbor said made the home look like it was "a barn."
Ray Peterlin, president of Willowbrook Estates Homeowners Association, said that over the years, Klopfer had been cited for violations for not maintaining landscaping, allowing unmoved cars to line the driveway, and other violations involving the home's appearance. Klopfer lived in the house with his wife for about the past 30 years, Peterlin said.
On Tuesday afternoon, three dumpsters and a large white storage unit were in the front yard as contractors pounded in the side yard with hammers.
Neighbor Antoinette Zimmerman, 92, knew Klopfer was an abortion doctor. She recalled a 1999 incident where two busloads of anti-abortion activists pulled up in front of his house to protest. She said she knew of no others.
"You couldn't fit an ant in that garage," said Zimmerman, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, kitty corner from the cul-de-sac. "There were boxes to the door."
The doctor would engage in conversations with neighbors who were outside, but Zimmerman noted one peculiarity.
"He would always interrupt conversations, and think that people were talking about him," she said.
Jack said Klopfer was known as a quiet person, who kept to himself. Neither neighbor had stepped foot in the doctor's house.
"I'd wave to him when he was mowing his lawn, but he wasn't the type of guy I'd have a beer with and talk about baseball," Jack said.