CARSON CITY, Nev. — Walter Samaszko Jr. was a loner whose death went largely unnoticed. That all changed when a crew sent to clean out his house found a fortune stashed away in the garage of his modest ranch-style home.
There were ammunition boxes stuffed with thousands of gold coins, from Austria, Mexico and the United States. There was enough gold to fill up two wheelbarrows — more than $7.4 million worth.
“There was every kind of coin you could think of,” said Alan Glover, the Carson City clerk and the public administrator of the estate who borrowed a neighbor’s wheelbarrow to haul the treasure out.
City officials searched through records to find an heir: a substitute teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who a judge declared Tuesday was Samaszko’s lone surviving first cousin.
The decision means Arlene Magdanz of San Rafael, Calif., is a millionaire. She didn’t attend the hearing and, so far, has not said anything publicly about her newfound fortune.
Officials were able to track her down using a funeral bulletin at Samaszko’s home that led to his father’s service in Chicago in the early 1960s, and then newspaper clippings that listed survivors.
When a lawyer told her that her 69-year-old cousin’s estate was valued in the millions, officials said, she was surprised, just like everyone else, including his neighbors on their quiet street.
No one seemed to know him at all, even though he had lived in the house since the 1960s. His mother lived with him until her death in 1992. When he died, the house was generally well kept.
“I don’t think I saw him in the year I was out here,” said Curtis Hastings, who dropped mail into a slot in Samaszko’s garage. A woman who lived just two doors down said she didn’t know him.
Samaszko’s body was found in June after neighbors called authorities, though it was not clear what prompted them to do so. He had been dead of heart problems for at least a month, according to the coroner.
Officials don’t know what Samaszko did for a living. They also don’t know how he earned the money that was used to buy the gold.