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Former caregiver indicted

March 05, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown woman faces a possible 10-year prison sentence in connection with the death last summer of an elderly woman who was supposed to receive twice-daily care but who had been dead for about two weeks when her body was found.

A Washington County grand jury on Feb. 21 indicted May Elizabeth Smith, 52, of 3 W. North Ave., on one count each of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adult by caregiver, and reckless endangerment, according to Washington County Circuit Court files.

Each charge carries a possible maximum five-year penalty.

Smith was released on personal recognizance, court records showed.

Smith said Tuesday she had no comment.

Smith was a private contractor employed through the Washington County Department of Social Services for the care of Anna Turner, 85, whose body was found May 15, according to David Engle, director of the agency.

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Turner had been dead for several weeks when her body was discovered in her room at College Hall near the Dagmar Hotel, officials said last May.

The hotel's maintenance man and the head of housekeeping found the woman's body when they became concerned about her and checked her room, said Carl Moser, general manager of the Dagmar who oversees the adjacent College Hall on the Summit Avenue side of the hotel.

The maintenance man became concerned because he hadn't heard the woman singing hymns along with the radio on Sunday, as he usually did, Moser said.

Police said a contract between Smith and Anna Turner required Smith to visit the woman twice a day, seven days a week.

"Smith was under a personal, private contract to provide care for Turner," Engle said Monday. He said Smith also was a full-time employee with the social services department at the time and had been for 15 years.

Engle said Smith's employment ended a short time after Anna Turner's body was found and an investigation was begun by Hagerstown City Police.

"We have many private contractors in the community who provide services," Engle said. He said Smith was the only full-time employee of the department who also was a private contractor.

"After being contacted by police, we reviewed all our services and all our providers," Engle said Monday.

He said the incident with Anna Turner was upsetting for all Department of Social Services personnel.

"We dedicate our lives to helping vulnerable adults and children," Engle said. "We were all deeply saddened by Mrs. Turner's passing."

The woman had been a client of the Washington County Department of Social Services since 1988, Engle said.

Turner was a participant in the department's Social Services to Adults program geared for adults 65 years or older, Engle said.

The program's goal is to keep people from becoming institutionalized and to keep them active in the community setting for as long as possible, he said.

Case managers may help clients get food, clothing and shelter as well as help them manage their finances, Engle said last summer.

Staff Writer Julie Greene contributed to this story.

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