BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Palm Beach County authorities have charged a 65-year-old man with aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person in connection with the death of his 92-year-old mother.
The Palm Beach Post reports the life and death of Violet Barker was shrouded in mystery. She lived in a mobile home park for 30 years, and her son lived with her.
The medical examiner ruled the 92-year-old woman died from starvation, though her manner of death could not be determined “due to the advanced stage of decomposition” of her body.
In December, investigators went door-to-door in the Jamaica Bay retirement community asking for information about their 92-year-old neighbor who had been found partially mummified in her home.
No one had seen Violet Barker in a year. In her 30 years as a resident, not many had ever talked to her.
Nicole Bishop, director for Palm Beach County Victim Services, said nearly half of all elderly abuse deaths are due to negligence.
“It’s very sad. Sometimes (caregivers) don’t have the mental or physical capability to take care of these adults,” Bishop said. “Sometimes they take them home (into their own care) for economic reasons or to steal their medication.”
Robert C. Hart, described by neighbors and court documents as mentally unstable and unfit to care for his ailing mother, was arrested Tuesday.
He told Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies she hadn’t left the white-paneled, rusting home with lace window curtains in more than two years. She had a hard enough time using her walker to get from her bed to the bathroom.
When Hart was questioned by investigators in December, he said he did not have a job and relied on his mother’s Social Security checks for income. But he also claims his mother told him she was going to “hibernate” for a month and to leave her alone. So he did. Two weeks after their conversation, she was dead.
Hart told investigators he felt guilty. He said he didn’t try to feed her or to get her any medical help. Instead, investigators say he walked past her bedroom on the way to his own each night as his mother’s corpse filled with maggots and flies buzzed around the room.
“Sometimes the caregiver isn’t able to take handle of taking care of the person. Maybe they’re depressed themselves by the situation, or don’t have support from other family members,” Bishop said. “Intentional and unintentional, in either circumstance, they need assistance.”