A Louisiana couple is facing a possible murder charge after their disabled daughter was found dead covered in her own waste in their living room couch. Lacey Ellen Fletcher, 36, is expected to have suffered for years before she died of "severe chronic neglect", Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III, the East Feliciana Parish Coroner told the Daily Mail.
Lacey Ellen was suffering from Locked-In Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder in which except for the eyes there is complete paralysis of voluntary muscles. She was discovered partially naked, sitting upright and submerged in a hole in the couch, practically 'melted' covered from head to toe in human excreta, insect bites, with live bugs and maggots in her hair at the family's home in Slaughter, Louisiana.
Sheila and Clay Fletcher had to call for the emergency services when they discovered that their daughter was not breathing anymore. Lacey weighed less than 100 pounds at the time of her death and further examination revealed that she had tested positive for Covid-19 and had not been to a physician in the past 20 years. There was no clear information as to how she contracted the coronavirus.
'The scene was sickening. I've seen some horrible things in my life but nothing like this,' said Bickham, adding that Lacey had bed sores that went all the way down to her bone. As soon as Bickham arrived at the family's home he alerted the detectives because he saw the signs of a 'potential crime scene', the stench for example, was so bad that one couldn't stay in the house for more than 30 secs, he told the Daily Mail.
Her death was ruled as a homicide with the cause being medical neglect by Bickham. He believed she passed away at least 24-48 hours before her official recorded time of death 3:07 am on 3rd January. 'The parents were in the kitchen. They did not have an explanation,' he said.
Sheila Fletcher, 64, has severed as a Slaughter town alderperson for four years but resigned a month after her daughter died. Clay Fletcher, 65, also resigned from his post as an officer of the non-profit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, NY post reports.
The couple will face a grand jury on Monday in a closed session at the court house in Clinton, where decision will be taken on charges of manslaughter, negligent homicide or second-degree murder. The decision is expected to be made by 2nd May.
Bickham will be the one presenting the case, 'I probably won't even have to open my mouth the pictures will show it,' he said. He had not seen such a severe neglect case in his 30 years of service as a doctor, "I couldn't eat for a week, kept crying," he told WBRZ, a news station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla who is seeking indictment against Lacey's parents confirmed that they were her 'primary caretakers' and the last time she went to see a doctor was back in the early 2000's. He said that her parents claimed in 2011-12 that she voluntarily chose to not leave the house and that she was able to communicate with her parents without ever complaining about anything, the Daily Mail reports. The couple has not been taken into custody as they are not deemed a 'flight risk'
"The question on everybody's mind is, 'How could they be caretakers living in the house with her and have her get in a condition like that?'" D'Aquilla said. "It's cruelty to the infirm. We can't just let it sit."
He further emphasized on the fact that if someone is not able to provide assistance for cases similar to that of Lacey's then they should ask for help, "we want people to know that if you are a caregiver of someone you need to pay attention is it important for neighbors and the community to look out for each other. We hope this never happens again."
The neighbors were visibly shocked as many of them did not have any idea of Lacey's existence, "they are appalled, some of these people were churchgoing friends who had no idea that there was another person in that house, "some of them spoke to the coroner who broke the news of Lacey's death to them.
Clay Fletcher's colleague from the Roundtable John Potts BRProud news, "I am shocked, because it doesn't match any of my experience of him. He's completely different than what you would expect someone like that to be." Potts said that he only heard Clay bring up Lacey after she passed away.
"The details are horrific, there is no doubt about that, and I can't conceive of how something like that can even happen," Potts told the station.
While the Fletchers were not available for a statement, their lawyer Steven Moore, on Wednesday released one on their behalf, "they don't want to relive the pain of losing a child through the media. They have been through a lot of heartache over the years. Anyone who had lost a child knows what it's like." He also revealed that the couple was not asked to be present at the hearing on Monday.