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Body of Las Vegas woman found in maze of clutter at home

LAS VEGAS -- A four-month search for a missing Las Vegas woman came to a ghastly end this week when her husband found her corpse in their home amid a labyrinth of squalor that had been impassable even to search dogs.

Bill James apparently had no idea that the body of his pack-rat wife, Billie Jean, was under the same roof as he helped police scour the home and the Nevada desert for any sign of her. Then he spotted the feet of the body poking out of a floor-to-ceiling pile of junk Wednesday, revealing in shocking detail the woman's penchant for hoarding.

Police say they searched the home several times -- even using dogs from a unit that helped locate bodies at ground zero after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. But they were unable to find the body of amid the piles of clothes, knickknacks, trash and other junk.

''For our dogs to go through that house and not find something should be indicative of the tremendous environmental challenges they faced,'' police spokesman Bill Cassell said.

Clark County Coroner's office spokeswoman Jessica Coloma said it could take weeks to determine when and how the 67-year-old woman died. The husband has been cooperative throughout the investigation and quickly notified police of his discovery.

One thing is not in doubt about the case: Billie Jean James loved to hoard. It's a behavior that has received new attention this year with two popular reality TV shows -- ''Hoarding: Buried Alive'' and ''Hoarders'' -- that chronicle the lives of people who live in absolute squalor because they cannot bring themselves to throw anything away.

A similar situation could be seen at the James' home in a desert-front cul-de-sac near the Las Vegas Strip. In the driveway sit two huge trash bins that require industrial-sized trucks to haul them away. The front patio is filled with knickknacks, including old chairs, smaller trash bins and a 10-foot basketball hoop.