Attorneys for the daughter and 18-year-old granddaughter of an 82-year-old Baton Rouge woman found dead last fall in her wheelchair are questioning their clients’ mental states at the time of the alleged crime.
Joleslie Looney, 53, and Lauren Looney are charged with manslaughter in the Sept. 29 death of Bessie Looney. The mother and daughter were primary caregivers for the woman who was found unclothed and sitting in feces amidst filthy conditions.
Stephen Sterling, who represents Joleslie Looney, and Gail Ray, the attorney for Lauren Looney, have asked that the mother and daughter be examined to determine whether they were sane at the time of Bessie Looney’s death.
At the request of Sterling and Ray, state District Judge Mike Erwin has appointed separate panels of doctors to evaluate the mother and daughter. The judge has scheduled a sanity hearing for Oct. 8.
Sterling wrote in a June 18 motion for a mental evaluation that Joleslie Looney and her family “may have a history of mental health issues.”
Looney, according to the motion, “may have been insane at the time of the commission of the alleged offense” and is “in need of a mental evaluation to determine her sanity at the time of the commission of the offense alleged in the indictment in this matter.”
Sterling said Friday that Joleslie Looney was overwhelmed and depressed at the time of her mother’s death.
“I do believe at the time ... that possibly she was temporarily or may have been insane or had some severe mental health problems,” he said.
Sterling acknowledged Joleslie Looney is currently competent to assist in her defense.
“She’s pretty much worried about her daughter,” he added.
Ray has made an oral motion on Lauren Looney’s behalf also requesting a mental evaluation. She was 17 when her grandmother died.
Police found Bessie Looney after receiving a 911 call about an unresponsive and possibly dead woman at 1081 N. Acadian West.
She was discovered naked and in a wheelchair atop a soiled disposable pad that investigators suspect had been there for a while.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark ruled the elderly woman’s death a homicide after an autopsy revealed she died from a blood infection caused by infected bedsores that riddled her body. Malnutrition, dementia and heart disease also contributed to her death, he said.
Homicide detectives found soiled clothes and bed linens in the trash at the home.
The Looneys, who face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter, told police they were aware of Bessie Looney’s condition but said it did not appear to be severe to them, an affidavit of probable cause says.
Lauren Looney has stated in an affidavit that she has been falsely accused.
The Looneys remain behind bars.