NH-ADAPT Lynching & Flogging report

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Sat, 6 Feb 1999 06:35:43 -0500


This is from today's issue of the Baltimore Sun.

Woman found guilty in death
Caregiver convicted of manslaughter, abusing invalid
------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Dail Willis
Sun Staff

The caregiver of a 66-year-old disabled woman found mummified in an Essex
home
last year was convicted yesterday of manslaughter by a Baltimore County
judge
who sharply rebuked the dead woman's friends and family -- and the
Department
of Social Services.

Patricia Thomas, 51, also was found guilty of two counts of felony theft
and
one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult in the death of Marion V.
Cusimano.
She could receive 45 years in prison when she is sentenced in April.

In grim, often macabre testimony, witnesses described Thomas' abuse of
Cusimano, a strong-willed woman victimized by advanced multiple sclerosis
and
her own refusal to accept help.

After Cusimano checked herself out of an Essex nursing home in 1993 and
moved
in with Thomas, concerned friends and family called DSS four times to
complain
Cusimano

was being neglected and financially exploited.

Social Services investigations found no wrongdoing. In April, police
found
Cusimano's corpse in a first-floor bedroom, where it had decomposed for
14
months while Thomas and her family continued to live in the house.

"Don't you think the Department of Social Services had an obligation to
take
some action?" Judge John Grason Turnbull II asked prosecutors. "I wish
they
had -- we would not be here."

Turnbull also singled out Jeanetta Tolson, Thomas' 21-year-old daughter
who
lived in the house with her own young daughter at the time of Cusimano's
death. Tolson, who testified against her mother, said that she heard
Cusimano
moaning for hours the night she died -- but did nothing about it.

Nor did Tolson act when fluids dripped from Cusimano's room into her room
below for months and the house was permeated with a terrible odor,
Turnbull
said.

When the judge turned to Thomas, she listened stolidly, head down, as he
announced the verdict.

She `had a duty'

"She was the primary caretaker and had a duty to the victim," Turnbull
said.
"The court finds the defendant's negligence played a major part in the
victim's death."

Defense attorney Stephen L. Miles said he was "ecstatic" about the
decision,
which spared Thomas life in prison -- the mandatory sentence for the
first-
degree murder conviction the state sought.

"I would have pled guilty to all those charges before the case started,"
he
said. This was not a case of murder, he said, but of negligence,
indifference
and greed on the part of Thomas, who cashed Cusimano's pension checks and
used
her credit cards.

Prosecutors Catherine C. O'Malley and James O. Gentry Jr. said yesterday
that
Turnbull's verdict was well-reasoned but that they had hoped for more.

"I'm still disappointed," Gentry said. "I believe that this was murder."

The case is an extreme example of the limits of government's powers in
dealing
with sane adults who make bad choices, said Barbara Gradet, director of
Social
Services for the county.

"If the law allowed us to remain involved, the outcome may have been
different
and we share his [Turnbull's] frustration that we are not permitted to do
so
in situations like this," Gradet said yesterday.

When an adult repeatedly rebuffs offers of help from social workers,
there is
little the department can do, Gradet said. Social Services investigations
are
typically triggered by complaints -- and none were made about Cusimano
after
1995, she said. If she was mentally competent -- which doctors and social
workers said she was -- there was no way to force her out of the Thomas
house
if she wanted to stay.

"If they are found competent, our hands are tied," Gradet said. "Mrs.
Cusimano
was not in imminent danger or placing herself in imminent danger when we
were
there. Her needs were being met when we were there."

Isolation a factor

Isolation was a factor in Cusimano's death, Gradet and prosecutors said.
In
1995, she received regular medical checkups, kept in touch by telephone
with
friends and family and had an occasional visitor at the Thomas home,
although
family and friends testified that it was clear that Thomas didn't want
them
there.

By 1996, however, the visits and calls had stopped, testimony revealed.
Cusimano's telephone had been turned off, leaving her with no link to the
outside world -- and ever more dependent on Thomas.

"The only way the abuse of Marion Cusimano could have occurred was with
this
isolation," O'Malley said in her closing argument.



Originally published on Feb 5 1999

Free our people!
Tom Cagle           
nh-adapt@juno.com
http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/6482
ICQ 7555286
Visit Crip-Chat  http://members.xoom.com/Bunnygail/index.htm   8-9
Eastern

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