The 911 call came in at 5:04 a.m. Monday, reporting an unresponsive, and possibly dead, woman at 1081 N. Acadian Thruway W., north of Florida Boulevard. When police arrived, they found Bessie Looney alone in her bedroom, in what they described as “deplorable conditions.”
The 82-year-old was dead, police said, discovered in her wheelchair, unclothed, surrounded by feces, trash and a horde of gnats and fruit flies.
By Monday evening, Baton Rouge police had booked Looney’s daughter and granddaughter on cruelty to the infirm.
“The victim was observed to be severely malnourished with severely infected bed sores on her hips and buttocks area,” Detective Cpl. Sherri Harris wrote in the affidavit of probable cause. “The victim’s wheelchair was lined with a disposable pad that was soiled with human waste.”
Detectives detained Looney’s daughter, Joleslie Looney, 53, and granddaughter, Lauren Looney, 17, both of whom police say were Bessie Looney’s main caregivers and both of whom were in the house at the time police arrived, police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola Jr. said.
Joleslie Looney and Lauren Looney were interviewed at the East Baton Rouge Parish Violent Crimes Unit on Independence Boulevard about the conditions at the home and said “they were aware of the victim’s condition, but the condition did not appear to be severe to them, therefore the victim did not receive any medical care,” Harris wrote in the affidavit.
Authorities estimate Bessie Looney died sometime between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday, Coppola said. The cause of death was not immediately known Monday night, and an autopsy will be performed Tuesday.
Court records show neither Joleslie Looney nor Lauren Looney, who were both booked into Parish Prison on one count each of cruelty to the infirm, has a prior criminal history.
Coppola said the counts could be upgraded pending the outcome of the investigation.
Two houses down from the Looney’s home, neighbor Renata Buckley, 35, was still in shock at the news late Monday.
“You have your mom living in these conditions and the flies. … How can you let your mom live in the house with all these flies?” Buckley said.
Buckley said she, the Looney family and a third family all moved into the new houses on North Acadian West in March, but neither Joleslie Looney nor Lauren Looney ever let anyone in the home. Other than that, Buckley said, they were good neighbors and were very nice.
Buckley said Joleslie Looney was a government employee and Lauren Looney spent most of her time with Bessie Looney. All three lived in the house, she said.
Buckley said she never noticed any friends or other family members visiting the Looney family.
Buckley said that when she would knock on the door to say hello or drop off food, whoever answered would open the door only wide enough to stick her head through, so Buckley could never get a glimpse inside.
After police arrested the mother and daughter, Buckley said, the landlord asked her to go inside to take pictures and make sure the doors were locked. When Buckley walked up to the home, she said, she was stopped cold by the stench of feces and urine.
Once inside the home, Buckley realized why the family never let anyone in.
In the back of the home, rabbit feces littered the floor, and when Buckley entered the kitchen, her smartphone recording the scene, she saw trash strewn on the floor and counter with small flies covering a few of the white cabinet doors.
By Monday evening, a notice from Parish Animal Control and Rescue was posted to the front door, indicating it had taken the two rabbits.
Hurricane tarp and blankets covered the windows and trash littered the living room floor.
In Bessie Looney’s room, Buckley found the feces-stained red wheelchair next to a brown-stained mattress. There were no sheets or blankets on the mattress.
“It is hell on wheels,” she said.