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Woman gets jail time for her grandmother's death Judge cites need to send a message in elder abuse case Judge cites need to send a message in elder abuse case

Portsmouth Herald - 1/12/2018

BRENTWOOD - Commotion broke out in Rockingham Superior Court Monday when a Maryland woman was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in state prison for her role in her grandmother's death.

Meritel Saintil, 34, was found guilty last month of negligent homicide and failure to report adult abuse. Saintil and her mother, Katherine Saintil-Brown were accused of allowing 75-year-old Nancy Parker to lie on the floor of her Exeter mobile home for five days in her own urine and feces, beginning on Feb. 12, 2016. She died from necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, at a Massachusetts hospice Feb. 20, 2016.

Saintil-Brown's trial began Monday after her daughter's sentencing, ending with a guilty verdict Thursday on all three charges, including criminal neglect of an elder adult, the single charge Saintil's jury found her not guilty of.

When Judge N. William Delker imposed his sentence, Saintil-Brown, sitting in on her daughter's sentencing, wept loudly in the courtroom, while other family members cried and yelled out in defense of Saintil.

"This is a very difficult and challenging case for multiple reasons," said Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod. "Taking care of an elderly person is an extremely taxing endeavor that should not be taken on by those not ready for the task at hand."

Garod called Parker an "exceptionally difficult woman to love, to live with, to be responsible for."

Saintil's trial posed questions about end-of-life choices and a person's right to "self determination." The defense argued Parker had the right to live as she wished, no matter the conditions, considering social workers had deemed her of sound mind. Saintil, her attorneys said, was honoring her grandmother's wishes by not calling 911.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed Parker was a "stubborn" woman, who had a deep distrust in doctors and refused medical treatment, despite serious hygiene and care issues. She defecated and urinated on herself regularly, the trial depicted. She wanted to die in her own home without interference, defense attorney Justin Shepherd said. Parker also denied assistance from the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services.

Garod asked the court to send a strong message "not only to the defendant but to the general public" about caring for elders.

Parker was left on the floor in a wet and soiled nightgown in February, he said. "These facts would be horrifying enough for an average citizen but the total lack of action by a granddaughter. This is substantially furthered by what has been a complete lack of remorse or acceptance of responsibility. Ms. Saintil still does not believe she did anything wrong."

The elder neglect case depicted a shattered family, with Parker's daughters estranged from each other, an estate case coinciding in Brentwood Probate Court. Four impact statements were read to the judge Monday, two of Parker's daughters present in court.

Parker's eldest daughter Brenda Merrill called Saintil "cold-blooded and cruel." She depicted Parker as a woman who never missed a day of work for 30 years. She had reconnected with her mother later in life, she said.

"Did you sit on the couch and watch television when she laid on the floor?" she said. "The truth is there is nothing you can say or do to justify what you did to her. I hope you suffer at the hands of those who see your actions as a coward. I hope when you close your eyes you see my mother laying on the floor."

Daughter Alison Raiche painted a very different picture of Parker and the tragic situation, claiming Parker "led a life of misery for herself and those around her." She asked the judge to grant Saintil leniency "so she may become a better person and stop this 60-year long period of dysfunctional family dynamics."

Defense attorney Robin Melone said "this family was broken, perhaps irreparably. I think even the different views of the daughters today shows how broken."

Melone said while the defense respected the grief of the daughters, they were not present in the home while Parker struggled at the end of her life.

"In fact, they were absent," she said. "After Nancy Parker died, Meritel returned to that feces-filled, rancid trailer for a minimum of four weeks before she was evicted because she had no place to go."

Melone argued the jury's verdict was punishment enough for Saintil, and she requested a sentence of 12 months fully suspended for three years on the condition of good behavior.

Delker acknowledged Saintil's difficult upbringing and said he considered such mitigating circumstances in his sentence.

However, Delker said he found two things "deeply disturbing," the fact that Saintil did nothing to help Parker for five days, including flagging a neighbor or calling a friend, and that neither Saintil or her mother notified any of Parker's other daughters of her death.

"They had a right to make a decision to make their peace with their mother before she passed, and they had no opportunity to do that," Delker said. "They learned about it only when it was too late. To leave anyone, no matter how difficult or stubborn they are, to lie like that and to die like that, is not acceptable. The criminal justice system needs to send a message that particularly in today's society, in this state with the graying population, those who take the responsibility to care for someone, have the responsibility to care for those people."

On the negligent homicide charge, Saintil was given 2 to 4 years in state prison, with the opportunity of 1 to 3 on good behavior. For the failure to report abuse charge, she was given 12 months suspended for five years.

 
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