The hospice worker who arrived to check on Theresa Smothers was so appalled at the 87-year-old's living conditions that she immediately called 911.
When Theresa passed away of extreme neglect just days later, police charged her daughter with murder.
As KFVS News reports, when Theresa was found, naked, her body was covered in both bed sores and her own feces. Though she was conscious, she was incoherent and unaware of her surroundings. The hospice worker discovered her in bed, with the covers pulled over her face, and police say she was malnourished and dehydrated. Lt. Andrew Cleveland told KFVS:
“I made an inspection of her sores, she had quite a few bruises, sores that were weeping, closed sores from the exposure to the fecal matter and the urine.”
According to the Southeast Missourian, Theresa weighed only 71 pounds when she was found and had reportedly lost about half her body weight in the previous three months. Her diet consisted of only one package of applesauce per day.
The house was not in livable condition. Authorities say that the building was overrun with cats, mice, and rats. Theresa's bed was stained with fecal matter, which also covered the walls. Lt. Cleveland said Theresa's home was in a terrible state:
“There was an overpowering stench of urine and fecal matter.”
Though Theresa was taken to the hospital for treatment, she died three days later without ever being able to speak with authorities about what had happened. The medical staff who tried to keep her comfortable in her final days attribute her death to dehydration, malnutrition, and neglect. Police, however, are calling it a homicide. An outraged Lt. Cleveland told KFVS:
“I don’t think this is any different from a child abuse case. If you saw a child that was a year old or two years old that was put in these conditions it would obviously be child abuse. I don’t think elderly people should be any different.”
Sadly, Theresa had someone who supposed to be caring for her: her daughter, Judy Smothers.
Though Theresa's husband died two years ago, she was still receiving his retirement payments in addition to whatever disability or social security money she was entitled to. Judy Smothers became her mother's guardian in 2009 and was responsible for her care and her finances.
However, when Judy was arrested for her role in her mother's death, she told police:
“I would have taken better care of my mother, but I was just too tired.”
Showing disgust, Lt. Cleveland says he believes that it was clear Judy considered her mother “a burden.” He added:
“I don’t think that she really wanted to make the effort to take care of her mother. She just looked at her as a means to get a check.”
Judy Smothers was released from jail after a 24-hour hold. Authorities are planning to charge her with second degree murder, domestic assault, and abuse of an elderly person.