Saying the circumstances of the case sickened him, a state judge set bail at $100,000 apiece Thursday for the daughter and teenage granddaughter of an 82-year-old Baton Rouge woman found dead Monday in her wheelchair amidst what police called deplorable conditions.
Joleslie Looney, 53, and Lauren Looney, 17, made their first court appearance after being booked Monday on cruelty to the infirm counts in the death of Bessie Looney, who was found unclothed, sitting in feces and surrounded by trash and a horde of gnats and fruit flies at her North Acadian West home.
“It made me sick … to allow somebody to live in those kinds of conditions,” District Judge Mike Erwin said during the bail hearing.
Erwin, who noted that the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office has since ruled the death a homicide, said he would re-examine the bail amount if the duo is booked on upgraded counts such as negligent homicide or something more serious.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the Baton Rouge Police Department will continue its investigation to determine whether to book the mother and daughter on some sort of homicide charge.
“Then we’ll take it from there and investigate the file, meet with the coroner and make a decision,” Moore said in a telephone interview.
The Coroner’s Office determined the elderly woman died of a blood infection from untreated bedsores. The preliminary report also lists malnutrition, dementia and heart disease as contributing factors in her death.
Police have said Joleslie and Lauren Looney were Bessie Looney’s main caregivers.
Lauren Looney’s court-appointed attorney, Robert Tucker, told Erwin that the teenager is a high school student who also takes advanced classes at Baton Rouge Community College. She has no criminal history and cannot make a large bail, Tucker added.
The judge shot back that if the teen is intelligent enough to be in advanced classes, she was smart enough to know her grandmother was in trouble.
“The entire scenario is reprehensible,” Tucker said in an interview outside the 19th Judicial District Courtroom. “In a case like this, the issue is the amount of control the 17-year-old actually had.”
Joleslie Looney, who is being represented by the local public defender’s office, and her daughter both lived with Bessie Looney.
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 an affidavit of probable cause.
Bessie Looney was severely malnourished and had severely infected bedsores on her hips and buttocks area, the affidavit states, and her wheelchair was lined with a disposable pad that was soiled with human waste.
Clark has said Bessie Looney’s bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, “had the appearance of obvious infection.”