Letters and an affidavit from a teenager charged in the September death of her 82-year-old grandmother proclaim her innocence, ask a Baton Rouge state judge to throw out the statement she gave police and lower her bond in time for her to return to high school and graduate next month.
Lauren Looney wrote the letters to the very judge, District Judge Mike Erwin, who stated last year that the circumstances of the case “made me sick.” Police have said the grandmother, Bessie Looney, was found dead in her wheelchair, unclothed and in feces amidst trash, gnats and fruit flies.
Looney, 18, and her 53-year-old mother, Joleslie Looney, are charged with manslaughter in the Sept. 29 death of Bessie Looney at her North Acadian West home. Both remain behind bars and are scheduled to make their next court appearance Thursday.
In addition to two letters Lauren Looney has written to Erwin, she also signed an affidavit stating she has been falsely accused, contending there is a “gross lack of evidence” against her.
“I was very disturbed and traumatized by the death of my grandmother and I was willing to give the police whatever information requested to end the interview and return to my home,” she claims in the affidavit attached to her Feb. 13 motion to suppress evidence.
“I was also struggling with my diagnosed and untreated mental illness while self medicating with illegal drugs,” she adds.
Gail Ray, who enrolled March 24 as Lauren Looney’s new attorney, said Wednesday she had not seen her client’s letters to the judge but added there are mental issues involved in the Looney family.
“I don’t think anybody intended to do her (Bessie Looney) any harm,” Ray said.
The Coroner’s Office ruled Bessie Looney’s death a homicide after an autopsy revealed she died from a blood infection caused by infected bedsores. Coroner Beau Clark said malnutrition, dementia and heart disease contributed to her death.
An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Joleslie and Lauren Looney in December. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said he believes manslaughter is the appropriate charge for the mother and daughter.
Lauren Looney notes in her affidavit that she is dually enrolled at Port Allen High School and Baton Rouge Community College and has never been in trouble.
“I was not the caregiver for my grandmother and I am not guilty nor have any information on any type of crime being committed,” she maintains.
Police have said Joleslie and Lauren Looney were Bessie Looney’s main caregivers.
Lauren Looney’s first letter to Erwin, dated Feb. 7, is included in a Feb. 24 motion to reduce her bond. That bond is set at $155,000.
She argues in the motion that she is neither a threat to the community nor a flight risk, and says in the letter that a reduced bond or release on house arrest would allow her to complete her senior year of high school and graduate in May.
“For me, formal education has been a ray of sunshine on a dark day made of unfortunate social and financial circumstances,” the teen says in the letter. “It has been such a big focal point in my life as a way to escape these circumstances that it has blinded me to my surroundings.
“I now fully understand the importance of balance. In no way do I feel that it wanes the seriousness of my case and charge.”
In a second motion to suppress filed March 3, Lauren Looney includes a Feb. 9 letter to the judge that states she harmed herself in a bathroom and holding cell shortly after her police interview, leaving cuts on her arm. She attributes those actions to the “traumatized feeling that everything was falling apart in my life” and says she felt like her life was “spinning out of control.”
Joleslie and Lauren Looney told police they were aware of Bessie Looney’s condition but it did not appear to be severe to them, so she did not receive any medical care, an affidavit of probable cause states.