Bessie Looney was emaciated, riddled with bedsores and sitting in her own waste when the 82-year-old woman was found dead in 2014, slumped over and strapped in a wheelchair in her fly-infested North Acadian West bedroom, a jury learned Tuesday at her daughter's manslaughter trial.

"Nobody should ever be treated this way," prosecutor Dana Cummings told an East Baton Rouge Parish jury of 11 women and one man in her opening statement at Joleslie Looney's trial. "Every ounce of dignity that Bessie Looney had ... was taken from her. This is gross negligence."


The jury was shown crime scene photos of Bessie Looney's bedsores, which even Joleslie Looney's court-appointed attorney called "horrific" and "absolutely horrendous." Jurors have not yet seen the graphic autopsy photos.

"There's no way around it, there's no excuse for what you're going to see," attorney Stephen Sterling said.

But Sterling asked the jury not to judge his client on the photos alone and argued she is neither a monster nor a killer.


"She in fact loved her mother, adored her mother," he told the dozen jurors and one female alternate juror.

Sterling said Bessie Looney suffered from osteoporosis, hypertension, malnutrition, narrowing of the arteries and became increasingly combative as her dementia worsened. The "ugly truth," he said, is that she would refuse food, take off her diapers and dig into her bed sores.

Joleslie Looney, 56, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. She faces up to 40 years in prison if found guilty as charged.

Her daughter, 21-year-old Lauren Looney, is scheduled to stand trial next month on a manslaughter charge in her grandmother's death.


Joleslie and Lauren Looney were Bessie Looney's primary caregivers, authorities have said.

"They did the best they could with the means they had. They did the best that they could each and every day," Sterling told the jury that will judge Joleslie Looney.

The mother and daughter, however, were untrained, unequipped, unprepared and incompetent — "the blind leading the blind" — when it came to caring for Bessie Looney, he argued.

All the while, Joleslie Looney was suffering from obesity, bladder problems, hypertension, severe depression and mental health issues, Sterling said.

"That creates a recipe for disaster, which puts her in this seat today," he said, pointing to Joleslie Looney sitting at the defense table in state District Judge Mike Erwin's 19th Judicial District courtroom. "She was overwhelmed."


The trial will resume Wednesday.

Coroner's officials classified Bessie Looney's death as a homicide. They said she died from a blood infection caused by severely infected bedsores. Malnutrition, dementia and heart disease were contributing factors in her death, they added.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Glenn Hutto, the prosecution's first witness, recalled Tuesday how bad Joleslie Looney's bedroom smelled when he arrived at the scene on Sept. 29, 2014.

"The odor in the room was overwhelming," he said.

Hutto described what he called a large swarm of flies in her closet.

"We actually had to go outside for a while because when you would breathe you'd get them in your mouth and nose," he testified.

Hutto also told the jury that skin from Bessie Looney was embedded in the strap that held her in the wheelchair.

"We had difficulty removing the strap from her," he said.

Hutto said the woman was not clothed, but had what Cummings called a house dress draped over her.

Records from Baton Rouge Clinic indicate the elderly woman weighed 130 pounds at an April 2013 doctor visit, but Cummings said she weighed just 80 pounds at her death a year and a half later.

The prosecutor said Bessie Looney, who previously lived in Tennessee, lived with Joleslie and Lauren Looney in the Baton Rouge area only from the spring of 2013 until her September 2014 death.


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.