Investigators say a 93-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s was found locked in a bedroom in squalor by investigators checking out a tip of possible drug activity.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Inv. Trent Wilson said that 61-year-old Ida Elizabeth McNeill, her daughter 33-year-old Meredith Onata McNeill, and 32-year-old Mark Gunby were all arrested late Monday on drug charges after meth and drug related objects were found in the home off North County Line Road in Lithia Springs.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Inv. Trent Wilson said that 61-year-old Ida Elizabeth McNeill, her daughter 33-year-old Meredith Onata McNeill, and 32-year-old Mark Gunby were all arrested late Monday on drug charges after meth and drug related objects were found in the home off North County Line Road in Lithia Springs. Police say that three children were living in the deplorable conditions and a a 93-year-old woman was found longed alone in a room
The McNeills also face elder abuse charges, as well as three counts of cruelty to children. Gunby faces the same charges, as well. From the conditions described in a bond hearing Thursday, it’s remarkable that the woman was still alive. Wilson said the women claimed that because of the victim’s disease, they locked her in for her own protection.
“As a part of the search of the home and in clearing the scene, investigators located a locked room on the lower level of the house,” Wilson said. “When there were able to gain entry, they found the 93-year-old victim locked inside. The room was locked, with windows boarded up and the only way she could get out was if they let her out.”
Wilson said that Ida McNeill indicated that her mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and that was the way that they had decided to keep her from roaming off. But Wilson said the conditions of the home were some of the worst he has ever seen. There was no restroom inside the room and the signs of neglect were obvious.
“She told us that she put the locks up about four to six months ago and judging from what we found, it doesn’t look like there had been much cleanup during that time,” Wilson said. “There were at least 14 cats inside the home and dogs inside along with the child children who were 2, 7, and 9. Judging from what we found ,it appeared that we were dealing with a hoarder.”
Wilson said there was trash scattered about the residence and animal feces was also present in multiple locations. Dirty dishes, discarded food, soiled laundry, pet hair and multiple bags of trash filled the living space, Wilson said. Investigators immediately called the Department of Family and Children Services, which took custody of the children, while Adult Protective Services is making sure the elderly victim is being cared for and is assessing her health, Wilson said.
According to Ashley Fielding, director, Legislative Affairs and Communications with the Department of Human Services could not comment on this case specifically, but outlined the process.
Once that referral comes in, a case manager goes out to the home (or, depending on the circumstances, the hospital, nursing home, personal care home, etc.) to meet the client one-on-one and ascertain the individual’s status and begin gathering facts. The case manager also interviews other individuals who may have knowledge of the abuse. Additionally, the case manager may request records, including medical and financial records, that would substantiate an allegation of abuse, neglect or exploitation, Fielding said.
If, early on in the investigation, it is determined that the individual needs to be relocated to a safer environment, the department would work with the person to relocate or to make the current living environment safer, Fielding said.
Douglas County Animal Control was called to help care for the animals. Douglas County Magistrate Court Judge Joel Dodson set bond at a total of $71,000 for Ida McNeill and Meredith McNeill. There was no bond set Thursday for Gunby, as investigators were still finalizing the charges against him.
Gunby denied any wrongdoing, saying he didn’t live at the address and didn’t have any connection to the drugs or items found in the home during his bond hearing.
“I have been doing this for 14 years, and this is in the top three of the worst I have ever seen,” Wilson said. “It is amazing to me the conditions that some people can live in and the things they are capable of doing — thinking there is nothing wrong with it at all.”