Two friends of Joleslie Looney, who is standing trial in the 2014 bedsore-related death of her 82-year-old mother in their Baton Rouge home, portrayed Looney on Thursday as a hard-working single mom who struggled with financial and health problems but often was too proud to ask for help.
"I do know they were a loving family," Quanno Gallo, who sometimes watched Bessie Looney while Joleslie Looney worked, testified at Looney's manslaughter trial. "She loved her mom and her mom was crazy about her."
Cynthia Eagles, a former city-parish co-worker of Joleslie Looney, described the 56-year-old Looney as a very good mother and a good person who had no family to lean on in Baton Rouge after she moved here from Tennessee.
"She was a hard-working person that struggled a lot. She was a proud person that didn't want people to know about her struggles," Eagles, who fought back tears at times, said while being questioned by Looney's attorney, Stephen Sterling.
Gallo and Eagles were the first witnesses called by the defense after the prosecution rested its case Thursday afternoon. Looney told state District Judge Mike Erwin she would not testify in her own defense, noting that the jury on Wednesday heard her videotaped police statement from September 2014. In the statement, Looney told detectives she was unaware of the severity of her mother's bedsores.
The trial will resume and is expected to conclude Friday.
Eagles acknowledged under questioning from prosecutor Dana Cummings that she never met Bessie Looney, never went to their North Acadian Thruway West home, and was never asked by Joleslie Looney to take her elderly mother to the doctor.
Gallo recalled one occasion when she went to the Looney home and Bessie Looney excitedly showed her clothes that Joleslie Looney had bought her. Gallo also said Joleslie Looney would call and check on her mom during those times when Gallo would watch Bessie Looney in Gallo's home.
Cummings rested the state's case after East Baton Rouge Parish's coroner, Dr. William "Beau" Clark, told the jury that "overwhelming infection" of numerous bedsores caused Bessie Looney to go into septic shock, leading to her death on Sept. 29, 2014.
Clark told the jury of 11 women and one man that the autopsy on an emaciated Bessie Looney — she weighed a mere 82 pounds at her death — revealed large, Stage 4 pressure sores, or bedsores, on both hips and her buttocks. Stage 4 is the worst stage, he noted.
Clark said the sores became infected by her own human waste. Jurors were shown graphic autopsy photographs Thursday.
Other pressure sores were found on her left shoulder, left and right elbow, wrist, hand and heel, the coroner said.
Clark said he classified Bessie Looney's death as a homicide and believes neglect was involved. The specific cause of death was septic shock, he said, but heart disease, Alzheimer's and dementia, and malnutrition were contributing factors.
Those other conditions, Clark said, "made for a worse picture."
"It's possible," he replied when Cummings asked if the woman's life could have been saved if she had been brought to an emergency room prior to her death.
Lauren Looney, 21, who is Joleslie Looney's daughter and Bessie Looney's granddaughter, also is charged with manslaughter. Her trial is scheduled next month.
Joleslie and Lauren Looney were Bessie Looney's primary caregivers at the time of her death, authorities have said. Lauren Looney was 17 when her grandmother died.