An Edwardsville couple will serve prison time for the abuse of their elderly relative, in a case some witnesses called the worst case of elder abuse they had ever seen.
Jacob and Kayleen Dean had pleaded guilty to criminal neglect of an elderly person under the condition of sentences of no more than 10 years for a charge that can carry up to 14 years in prison. On Friday, Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp sentenced Jacob Dean to six years in prison and Kayleen Dean to three years. Both will also serve two years of probation.
Defense attorney Brian Polinske had requested probation for both defendants, while the prosecution asked for 10 years.
Maryann Paproth, 85, died on Feb. 24, 2011, as a result of neglect, having been denied adequate food, water and medical care. Jacob Dean was Paproth’s great-grandson, and he and his wife Kayleen lived in Maryann’s house on the property they shared with Jacob’s mother, Jennifer Dean.
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Paproth’s son, Mark Paproth, testified that the family thought the Deans’ living arrangement was good for her: She had a young couple living with her with a newborn baby, and her granddaughter nearby. He said when he saw his mother at Christmas in 2010, she looked good and healthy.
But he said when he saw her in the hospital on Feb. 12, 2011, he didn’t recognize her. Earlier that day, Kayleen Dean had called him to say his mother was “not doing well,” and he told her to call an ambulance.
“She hesitated and said she was afraid they would get in trouble,” Paproth said. “She said, ‘You haven’t seen her, she’s lost a lot of weight and she’s got bedsores all over her.’”
In fact, witnesses said Maryann Paproth was malnourished, dehydrated and had a body temperature of 92 degrees, which is considered hypothermia. She had bedsores nearly down to the bone, which had become severely infected.
She had broken ribs and bruising on her thighs that appeared to be made by hands, according to Dr. Kelly Geldmacher, the emergency room doctor who treated her at Anderson Hospital. The bedsores were septic, and there were also bruises and wounds around her sexual organs and inside her orifices, Geldmacher said.
Maryann Paproth had lost at least 30 pounds in the last few months of her life, prosecutors said, and when she was admitted to the hospital, the woman — whom others described as being heavyset — weighed 128 pounds. She died in the hospital 12 days later.
Geldmacher testified that she called the hospital social worker to report elder abuse, but she wasn’t the only one: the paramedics who brought Paproth in requested the number for the state elder abuse hotline, she said, and another nurse also called the hotline after seeing Paproth. ER nurse Sarah Craft testified that in 11 years of working the emergency room, she had never seen an elderly person in as poor a condition as Paproth.
The autopsy confirmed that lack of care and basic hygiene caused Paproth’s death, and a Madison County coroner’s jury ruled her death a homicide.
On the February day that Maryann Paproth went to the hospital, Winston Grabner came by the property on Seminole Street to see her. Grabner was an old friend of Paproth’s and often bought antiques from her, he said. He became concerned when he saw that the driveway was chained off, and testified that he was threatened by the Deans’ family members just for stopping by. He became suspicious and went to the Edwardsville Police Department to file a report. While he was there, the Deans called the ambulance.
Prosecutor James Buckley pointed out that Paproth was in the hospital for 12 days, and in that time she gained back 22 pounds. “Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, and she died,” he said. “If this had only been caught sooner, Maryann Paproth could be selling antiques today.”
Polinske argued that the Deans were young parents who had simply gotten in over their head, and relied on Jennifer Dean’s judgment for caring for Paproth. Jennifer Dean also had been charged along with her son and his wife, but died of breast cancer in 2013 before her case came to trial.
“They got in over their heads, they didn’t know what to do,” Polinske said. “(Jennifer Dean) said she was taking care of her, and they assumed she would make the call.” He also argued that the Deans’ three young children would be left alone if their parents went to jail.
But Napp said Paproth’s injuries did not occur overnight and some were “simply unexplainable,” while the Deans told police they were regularly caring for her, cleaning and feeding her. “They don’t get to pass on that now and say they were just living in the house,” she said. “There’s no way you don’t see the significant injuries to Ms. Paproth,” she said. “She did not deserve to suffer in the manner she clearly suffered.”
Napp said her sentence was based on “the lack of care, lack of decency, lack of humanity clearly shown by these defendants toward this woman.”
“If we as a society allow this to happen to our elderly, we are in serious trouble,” Napp said. “How can someone who claims to have a duty to her allow her to suffer the way she did?”
Kayleen Dean broke down sobbing as the sentence was read. While Polinske argued for a stay in commencing sentence, in order for the Deans to get their affairs in order, Napp denied the motion and they were taken away in handcuffs.
Joann Condellone, a friend of Maryann Paproth’s, attended the sentencing hearing with a picture of Maryann pinned to the front of her shirt. “I wanted her to be here so she could see justice done,” Condellone said. “She took such good care of her family.”
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.