Friday, February 15, 2008

Woman dies after police say she was starved by son, nephew

By Jamie Rogers E-mail submitted by E Malone

A woman authorities found starving in a Darlington home last month died Wednesday afternoon.Mary Lee Sims Terry, 62, died in a Florence hospital, Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee said.The cause of her death remains under investigation by the Darlington County Coroner’s Office. Her body was sent to Newberry for an autopsy and the results are expected to be released today, Hardee said.When EMS officials discovered Terry in her home Jan. 29, it appeared she hadn’t eaten in 30 days, Darlington Police Capt. Danny Watson said.Terry’s son, Timothy Sims, 47, and his cousin, Les Williams, 53, both of 402 Second St. in Darlington, each are charged with two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult, Watson said.After Terry’s death, one of the counts was upgraded to a higher statute of abuse of a vulnerable adult, which is punishable by as much as 30 years in prison, instead of just 15, Watson said.

The cousins also are charged in connection with the neglect of Terry’s 84-year-old mother, who is expected to survive, Watson said.Williams is Terry’s nephew and her mother’s great-nephew, Watson said.The two men remained in custody at the Darlington County Detention Center at press time Thursday.

Virginia Williamson, general counsel for the S.C. Department of Social Services, said her agency handles complaints of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in communities throughout the state.A vulnerable adult is defined as anyone with a mental or physical condition that renders him or her helpless and dependent on someone else for care, Williamson said.

Age doesn’t automatically make a person a vulnerable adult, Williamson said. It’s only a factor if the person can’t take care of themselves because of his or her age, she said.Last fiscal year, DSS reported serving 4,983 clients who were determined to have been abused or neglected.

There were 3,179 vulnerable adult cases reported to the agency last year, Williamson said.Anyone can report a case of abuse or neglect, Williamson said.“If someone suspects an adult is being abused or neglected, they can call the local DSS office or call local law enforcement,” she said.A DSS official will gather information from the source about the suspected victim, then visit the home to check on the adult.

“A DSS worker can’t (remove a vulnerable adult from the home) unless they get a court order. But law enforcement can take them into emergency protective custody,” Williamson said.Based on his or her needs, the victim usually is taken to a relative’s home, a hospital or a nursing home by law enforcement personnel, she said.

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