Bollinger County Man Charged with Elder Abuse
By: CJ Cassidy
PATTON, Mo. - A Patton man faces charges in connection with his 83- year-old mother's death.
Eric Lichte, 58, returned home after bonding out of Bollinger County Jail Wednesday.
He faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse and tampering with physical evidence.
According to court records, Eric Lichte's mother passed away around 3:30 a.m. October 11th, but he told police he didn't call anyone for help because he figured it was too late.
So he went to sleep for an hour and called a funeral home much later.
That's not the only thing raising questions among investigators and neighbors.
"I was very surprised. He was always a nice gentleman," said Bud Becker.
Becker lives across the road from Eric Lichte, and says he's horrified to hear some of the details involving Lichte's mother's death.
According to court documents, investigators found Lichte's 83-year-old mother, Wanda, dead on a bed covered with plastic, not sheets. Her arms were reportedly folded as if she were in a casket, and her body neatly dressed, her hair neatly combed.
Becker says in 18 years out in Patton, he got to know his other neighbors, but not the Lichtes.
"They were people who stayed to themselves. They never came out much, never said much to anybody. They would come out at night, wouldn't come out much during the day, even to get their mail, even to mow their grass," Becker said.
Court papers point to disturbing details, like the the County Coroner finding large open bedsores on Wanda Lichte's body. They state you could even see her joints and ribs in places because she appeared to be malnourished.
Eric Lichte allegedly told police his mother suffered from both Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, but he didn't take her to the doctor because he wanted to honor her wishes.
That's something social workers say is quite common in cases of elder abuse, but doesn't always hold up in court.
"If the person has verbalized or put in writing their wishes to be honored, lot of times through a living will, when it's medical it will address that. But if it's a family member who told their son or daughter they don't want anyone coming to help, usually. That's because they're afraid of being put in a nursing home," said Bonnie Eulinberg with the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services.
Eulinberg says she deals with hundreds of cases of elder abuse in Southeast Missouri every year and ignorance and neglect are most often to blame.
If you suspect someone you know of being an abuser or you think someone's being abused, call 1 (800) 392-0210.
It's anonymous, and could help save someone's life.