JEFFERSON COUNTY — An adult son and his girlfriend are in jail following the death of the son’s elderly mother. The two allegedly forced her to sign over power of attorney and neglected her to the point where she developed a severe infection, among other health issues, in an attempt to bilk her bank account.
The son, 58-year-old Richard Huber, and his girlfriend, 70-year-old Betty Haley, are accused of taking advantage of Kathleen Johnson’s diminishing mental capacity over a period of two years as they slowly stole her money and let her squander in filth, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.
Huber and Haley are charged with first-degree manslaughter and theft.
Investigation into the case began when Huber and Haley took Johnson to the Jefferson County Medical Center for treatment of a knee infection on April 14. Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies were called to the hospital when staff reported Johnson’s alleged state. She was dressed in soiled clothing that had an “overwhelming aroma of urine and feces,” court documents state. Johnson was also wearing a sweatshirt and rubber gloves, leaving no open space for skin on her hands, her knees were stained with blood, and she was unable to communicate in any fashion, doctors said.
When deputies asked Huber why his mother’s hands were in gloves, he said it was to stop her from scratching herself and further exacerbating a knee infection. Huber told police that his mother’s health had only recently deteriorated, and when he was asked about her soiled diaper and distinct smell of urine, he said those were recent problems.
Huber and Haley allegedly told police they were decent caregivers and only become overwhelmed when Johnson’s health rapidly declined.
Johnson died on April 18 from renal failure, an infected patella and severe dehydration.
Deputies continued to investigate Johnson’s care as other, distant family members came to police and alleged abuse. They told police Huber and Haley forcibly took control of Johnson’s care after her husband died in 2010.
Family members told police they were worried about Johnson for years — saying Huber was abusive and Haley often spoke out against Johnson. The elderly woman told friends and family she specifically did not like Haley, and individuals around town reportedly saw Huber grabbing his mother and suspected abuse.
Police investigated Johnson’s residence in the 100 block of Lip Lip Lane in Nordland shortly after her death. They reportedly found abhorrent conditions. Cat and human feces crowded the house. Syringes were found on the home’s steps. Dirty dishes riddled the counters, and garbage was piled in the kitchen.
Johnson’s room was allegedly covered in feces and blood, and a green mat on the floor was drenched in urine.
On further investigation, police determined that Huber and Haley also took Johnson to the bank to withdraw funds over a period of two years. Bank tellers told police they often refused to give money to Johnson, saying she was railroaded by her son, and often could not remember her name and her social security number.
Huber and Haley were arrested on Aug. 9 following the investigation and are being held in Jefferson County Jail.