Trial to resume today in alleged neglect death

August 06, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Testimony will resume today in the two-day jury trial of a Hagerstown woman charged in the 1996 death of a woman who was supposed to receive twice-daily care but who had been dead for several weeks before her body was discovered.

May Elizabeth Smith, 53, of 3 W. North Ave., was indicted Feb. 21, 1997, by a Washington County grand jury on one count each of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adult by caregiver, and reckless endangerment, according to Washington County Circuit Court files.

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, 1996, in her room at the Dagmar Hotel, according to testimony Thursday.

The hotel's maintenance man and the head of housekeeping found the woman's body when they became concerned and checked her room, said Carl Moser, general manager of the Dagmar.


Hagerstown City Police Officer Dave Long testified he noticed the smell of a decomposing body when he got off the elevator on the fifth floor more than 50 feet from Turner's room.

"I saw a body wearing nightclothes on the bed," Long said. "It was a skeleton with skin."

He said there was moldy food on plates nearby.

Patricia Miller, a caseworker with the Department of Social Services, testified that Smith had been under contract to supervise Turner's medication twice a day, seven days a week for payment of $100 a month.

In January 1992, Smith was further contracted with to provide a hot meal once a day, run errands and drive Turner to the doctor, for an additional $100 a month, Miller said.

That contract continued through May 1996, according to Eileen Slinghoff, the DSS caseworker who took over the Turner case in March 1994.

Smith's contract continued at the $200 a month rate with the same responsibilities through May 1996, testimony revealed.

Defense attorney Daniel Mahone questioned both Miller and Slinghoff extensively on whether they were providing sufficient care to Turner during their tenures as her caseworker.

Both testified that Smith was hired by them to provide the twice-daily care Turner required. They then received Smith's time sheets and authorized her payments.

"In April 1996, May (Smith) was sick on and off but when I asked her what happened when she was off sick, she told me she always had that covered," Slinghoff testified.

Slinghoff testified that Smith told her she had a family member or friend fill in for her, and that she would put it on her time sheet and pay that person.

Smith's employment ended a short time after Turner's body was found and the investigation of Smith was begun by Hagerstown City Police.

Turner had been a client of the Washington County Department of Social Services since 1987.

The woman was a participant in the department's Social Services to Adults program geared for adults 65 years or older.

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

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