In death, Billy Ray Young has the Belleville Police and prosecutors as his advocates. This week his caregivers, brother and sister-in-law Richard and Elizabeth Young, were charged with criminal neglect of a disabled person.
But where were his advocates while he was alive? He was blind and physically and mentally disabled and could not advocate for himself.
He weighed just 60 pounds and was curled in a fetal position when he was found dead in his home on March 11. St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said this was the worst case of neglect he has seen in 40 years in law enforcement: "This is felonious neglect. This is a case of abuse in its highest form."
The Youngs moved from state to state, which provided some cover. Neighbors in Belleville said they didn't even know Billy Ray Young lived in the house. Still, it's hard to believe that a situation this extreme could go unnoticed. His neglect had to happen over several years.
Presumably the state and federal government were sending checks for his care. Was anyone watching to ensure money was spent properly?
A relative said the state investigated a complaint about his poor care in 2010. However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging said it has no record of receiving a complaint.
The continuing investigation should clear up that discrepancy. Chances are some people did know what was happening to Billy Ray Young and either stood by and did nothing -- or reported the problems but help never came.