The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office has ruled the death of 82-year-old Bessie Looney a homicide after she was found Monday in her home amidst deplorable conditions, having died of a blood infection from untreated bed sores.
Dr. Beau Clark, the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said they have what they believe is Looney’s complete medical history, including records from Tennessee, and found no indication of Looney having ever received treatment for the sores, which Clark said are treatable.
The preliminary report also lists malnutrition, dementia and heart disease as contributing factors in her death.
Looney was found dead in her wheelchair Monday in her Baton Rouge home. She was unclothed, sitting in feces and surrounded by trash and a horde of gnats and fruit flies after a 911 call came in at 5:04 a.m. reporting an unresponsive and possibly dead woman at 1081 N. Acadian West.
Police initially detained Looney’s daughter, Joleslie Looney, 53, and granddaughter, Lauren Looney, 17, who both lived with Bessie Looney, before later arresting them on counts of cruelty to the infirmed. Police have said the two were Bessie Looney’s primary caregivers.
Both Joleslie and Lauren Looney told police “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,” according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Clark said Bessie Looney’s bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, “had the appearance of obvious infection,” but they have not determined what type of bacteria caused the infection.
Bail will be set for Joleslie and Lauren Looney at a hearing Thursday in Baton Rouge state district court. Attempts to identify and reach family members in Baton Rouge and Tennessee were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Tasha Clark-Amar, chief executive officer of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging, called Looney’s death “heartbreaking.”
“It made me angry because there’s no need to mistreat an elderly, infirm person when there’s free resources here,” she said, referring to the services her agency offers elderly in the parish.
She said Tuesday evening she did not know if her agency had ever provided services to, or visited the home of, the Looneys.
Clark-Amar said her agency receives about one to two calls a week regarding elderly abuse, but nothing anywhere near the severity of what police said happened to Bessie Looney.
Sharon Jackson, director of Adult Protective Services in the state Office of Aging and Adult Services, said that police, after finding the body, contacted her agency for information. She said she could not divulge what that information is.
Jackson said her agency investigated nearly 7,000 cases of abuse and elderly neglect reported to them last year. In a lot of those cases, she said, the perpetrator is a family member of the victim.
“It’s a problem that often occurs behind closed doors and in private because a lot of times they are not out where you can see the abuse occurring,” Jackson said.
“A lot of times the victims are afraid. They are fearful of their caregivers, afraid of retaliation.”
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