NJ Neglect Case

Heather Smith - Monday, February 06, 2012

Sentencing in NJ Neglect Case

A former caseworker and a private caretaker were sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for neglecting three women in a case that led to a state review of the conditions for developmentally disabled residents and calls for a new law.

Former caseworker Bridget Grimes and sponsor home provider Debra Sloan pleaded guilty last year, avoiding trials.

The 55-year-old Grimes had pleaded guilty to official misconduct, neglect of a disabled person and theft. Sloan had pleaded guilty to neglect of a disabled person and theft. Both were also charged initially with aggravated assault, but those charges were dropped in negotiated plea bargains.

The 57-year-old Sloan had a $51,000 per year contract to care for Erin Germaine, Tara O'Leary and Lydia Joy Perry in Hunterdon County's Alexandria Township.

The three women were removed in September 2008 after a relative of O'Leary's reported that the 28-year-old woman was dangerously thin and unwashed. O'Leary, a 4-foot-11 woman who had weighed 97 pounds the year before, was by then less than 50 pounds.

Germaine had also lost about half her body weight.

Both were hospitalized. Germaine recovered, but O'Leary died within months.

Authorities say Sloan made Perry serve as a caretaker of O'Leary. Perry died in 2009 at age 68.

Sloan spent money allocated for use for the women as if it were her own, authorities said.

Hunterdon County prosecutor Anthony Kearns said in a statement that developmentally disabled people are among the most vulnerable people in society. "It is our duty and obligation to ensure their protection," he said. "It is my hope that these convictions remind all who interact and serve this population to treat them with the utmost care and respect."

After the woman's conditions were made known, New Jersey's Department of Human Services ordered reviews of the conditions of more than 1,200 developmentally disabled adults living in private homes run by contractors with state contracts.

And lawmakers introduced a bill known as Tara's Law, designed to increase protections for developmentally disabled adults. The law hasn't been adopted.

At Thursday's sentencing hearings, relatives of the victims read statements about their loved ones and what happened to them.

Janet Fandel, Perry's niece, told the judge: "Most people treat their dogs better than the defendant treated my aunt."



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