CONCORD — The state's highest court unanimously upheld the conviction of Katherine Saintil-Brown, sentenced to up to four years in state prison for failing to call for help sooner after firefighters had found an elderly mother on the floor in her own feces and urine.
Associate Justice Gary Hicks wrote that the sentence against Katherine Saintil-Brown, 55, was proper even though the lower-court judge erroneously instructed the jury about one of the three charges against her.
Hicks said Saintil-Brown's failure to call for assistance for five days after her mother, Nancy Parker, had fallen down in an Exeter mobile home met the clear definition of criminal neglect against an elderly adult and overrode instructional error.
"Here, there was no evidence that the defendant was unable to call the fire department for help sooner than the fifth day after the victim fell. Indeed, the evidence was overwhelming that the defendant could have called for help earlier, but simply chose not to do so," Hicks wrote in the ruling.
"Accordingly, we find no basis for concluding that the trial court’s allegedly erroneous jury instruction seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings."
Parker, 75, died in February 2016 after developing necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacterial infection.
Prosecutors said they had never seen as extreme a case of elderly neglect.
Saintil-Brown, who most recently lived in Houston, Texas, and said she has eight children, was convicted of negligent homicide, failing to report elder abuse, and criminal neglect of an elder adult.
Her daughter, Meritel Saintil, was convicted of negligent homicide and failing to report elder abuse and got two to four years in prison.
Prosecutors had agreed during the trial that Parker was very difficult to deal with and other family members testified Saintil-Brown's mother had abused and intimidated her.
In his opinion, Judge Hicks detailed how the victim had largely given up prior to her death.
"When the victim’s husband died in 2012, the victim became depressed, and her depression caused her to neglect her personal hygiene even more than before. After her husband died, the victim essentially ceased taking showers. Nor did she clean her home. The walls and floors of her home were full of feces," Hicks wrote.
"At one point, her sink was so clogged with food that mice built nests in it. Towards the end of her life, the victim spent her days sitting in a chair, watching television, and talking on the telephone with her sister. She would not leave her chair to toilet, but would instead relieve herself where she sat and would not clean herself after having done so."