9 Investigates: Friends of late retiree help him to a final resting place



GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - A Navy retiree who died in a fire on Veteran's Day is one step closer to resting in peace after a Channel 9 investigation.

Gaston County investigators came to Eyewitness News when they realized Sven Erickson's body was still in the morgue.

That important find is discharge papers. Channel 9 uncovered those while talking to people who lived near Erickson. 

They said that is fitting, because in 20 years he never had a visitor, not even on a holiday. 

They said they were his family and until Thursday they and police worried he would not get a proper burial.

 Neighbors in The Pine Grove Trailer Park near Belmont told Eyewitness News on Thanksgiving Day they brought some of their food to Sven Erickson's home.

"He never needed for anything and far as for actual family I don't think anybody know who they might be,” said neighbor Vivian Schronce.

So when neighbors found him dying 10 days ago on Veteran's Day, police had trouble finding relatives.

 They ran a data search in Connecticut where Erikson’s Social Security card was issued and found nothing. There was no one to claim the body of the man in his late 70s.

"I am at lost that things have taken so long for him to be at rest," said neighbor Barney Smith.

Police asked Channel 9 to publicize the need for information, but some neighbors directed Eyewitness News to neighbor Donald Pressley.

"You told me they need papers on him. So I went ahead and started calling around,” Pressley said.

He had a relative who used to live with Sven Erickson. She said a few years ago he gave her his discharge papers from 1974. She kept them as a souvenir.

Last night, Pressley gave the faded document to police.

"He said that, that would just about set it up where he would be buried by the Navy," Pressley said.

Police told Eyewitness News they are still trying to find a blood relative just in case the Navy needs a family member.

Erickson's friends said when this process is complete they hope he is buried in a military cemetery.