(CNN) -- Jon Whiteford had a secret so macabre, that when a Kentucky sheriff's deputy showed up to question him about it, he pulled out a handgun and killed himself.
About three years ago, he deep-froze the body of his mother, Faye Whiteford, law officers said.
They don't think he killed her. She appears to have died of natural causes at the age of 96 in spring of 2011, Pulaski County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Thursday.
Since Jon Whiteford is dead, there are no charges against him.
But law officers want to know what he can no longer tell them so they can complete the puzzle of what happened to Faye Whiteford's body from the time of her death until they found her remains this April -- tied up in tarp in the yard of a ramshackle home.
The picture they have painted so far based on conversations with witnesses and acquaintances has the makings of the stuff of a grotesque novel.
Behind the 8-ball
As Faye Whiteford lay bedridden in their home in Science Hill for the last years of her life, her son sunk into a financial morass.
He took care of her but was also dependent upon her Social Security and retirement benefits.
When she died, he didn't want to lose that income, the sheriff's office said. So he concealed her death and postponed her funeral.
He purchased a freezer where he kept her remains, the sheriff said. Talking with him about her was a tough topic.
"We didn't know she had passed away, and we were afraid to ask," Al Fried, one of Jon's close friends, told CNN affiliate WLEX.
But it seems the two friends did speak about the financial implications of her death.
"I guess he was afraid to report that his mom died because of what I said about the funds disappearing," Fried said.
His mother's retirement checks were not enough to save Jon Whiteford from getting behind the eight ball. The family home went into foreclosure.
"He was forced to move out of his home somewhere around Christmas of 2013," the sheriff's office said.
Whiteford found a house to rent in another county, but was in disrepair, not fit to live in without some work.
Law officers believe he took his mother's body there. And as the winter was a bitter, it would remain frozen if left outdoors.
In the meantime, Whiteford moved next door to his mother's former home, into the house owned by a friend who did not live in it.
Inquisitive law officers
Eventually, authorities wondered why there were no signs of life from his mother, and a fraud investigation into the Social Security benefits began.
On March 29 this year, a deputy decided to go question Jon Whiteford.
Some three weeks after his suicide, police brought in dogs trained to sniff out human remains, but they caught no scent of Faye Whiteford's body.
During the investigation, detectives came across the property Jon Whiteford had rented and decided to check it out.
There, a detective found a body tied up in tarp lying partially under a wooden box at the edge of the driveway. It was Faye Whiteford's.
The sheriff's office is looking for witnesses to answer many of the questions about what happened to her that her son would not.
CNN's Rick Martin contributed to this report