Flood victim battling cancer found dead in apartment

Vickie Smith had a bad feeling in her gut when Cherie Belland didn’t answer her door on Monday.

"She always answered the door when I knocked, and the dog never barked when I knocked," says Vickie. "So, when he started barking, I knew something was wrong."

So did Vickie’s brother, Ben Smith.

"I thought, well, she’s just out of it, you know. She’s just tired," says Ben. "Come back a couple hours later and same thing."

When they tried again, no answer. That’s when Ben called the landlord for the key. When they opened the door to Cherie’s Benton, Kentucky, apartment, their nightmare became reality. Cherie was dead.

Last week, we introduced you to Cherie as she was cleaning up after a flash flood ruined everything she owned. Just a few days later, she got hit by a second flash flood.

On top of that, Cherie was also battling cancer. She was diagnosed in 2000, when she was given only five years to live.

"She’s been battling this cancer for 16 years, and I think that and all this stress, because she had said that the stress makes it worse," says Vickie.

Vickie lived next door to Cherie. Both women were battling cancer, and Vickie says it brought them closer together.

"I’ve never gotten that close to someone so fast," says Vickie. "That’s how easy going she was."

Vickie says Cherie had two loves: her dog and her garden.

"Most of the time she spent in the backyard with her flowers, meant the world to her," says Vickie.

All her plants were ruined in the flood.

When Cherie wasn’t gardening, she was with Vickie and Ben. Now, they sit and stare at her empty apartment, trying to hold on to those good memories.

"I miss her," says Vickie. "I’ll miss her a lot."

Cherie’s dog, Stetson, was taken to the Marshall County Animal Shelter. If the family doesn’t pick him up by Friday, he will be available for adoption at the Paducah Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Neighbors say he’s a sweet dog who’s great with kids.

The coroner is not releasing the cause of death. There is no word yet on funeral arrangements.

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