Poplar Bluff woman pleads not guilty to murder after her mother died of malnourishment
POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - A Poplar Bluff woman has been charged with murder 2nd degree and elder abuse 2nd degree in connection to the death of her 87-year-old mother.
Judy Smothers was in court on Friday, January 6 where she pleaded not guilty. Her bond was set at $50,000.
The bond was posted on Monday, Jan. 9 and Smothers is due back in court on Jan. 30.
According to the Poplar Bluff Police Department, a hospice worker found the victim, Theresa Smothers, during her first visit to the home on Dec. 28.
The worker immediately called 911.
Smothers was covered in her own fecal matter and had covers pulled up over her face when the worker found her. She was reportedly naked and covered in bed sores, according to police.
"When I got down there she was incoherent. I made an inspection of her sores, she had quite a few bruises, sores that were weeping, closed sores from the exposure to the fecal matter and the urine," said Lt. Andrew Cleveland.
"I don't think that she really wanted to make the effort to take care of her mother," Cleveland continued. "She just looked at her as a means to get a check. I think she just looked at her mother as a burden."
First responders took Theresa Smothers to the hospital where she was stabilized. Investigators say she was severely malnourished and dehydrated.
Court documents show she was just 71 pounds when she was taken to the hospital.
Smothers was eventually transferred to a health and rehabilitation center.
According to investigators, her daughter, Judy Smothers, 65, was taken into custody on Dec. 29. The initial charge was suspicion of elder abuse.
When she was being booked into the jail, Judy Smothers reportedly told officers, "I would have taken better care of my mother, but I was just too tired."
Officers got a search warrant for the home and said they found it in deplorable condition.
"The home itself – we went inside – it was in extreme disarray. There was an overpowering stench of urine and fecal matter," said Cleveland.
Investigators report there were cats everywhere.
They said the home had a strong odor due to the cats and Theresa Smother's room. Investigators say the bed in the room was brown from fecal matter. Fecal matter was also found on the walls and the bed frame.
One officer noted in his report that there was a smell of cleaning fluids in the home that indicated that Judy Smothers tried to clean after her mother was removed from the home.
Theresa Smothers died on Dec. 31 just before 5 a.m.
"I would like to see justice for the victim. The victim – she can't obviously speak for herself. We have to be that voice for her," said Cleveland. "I don't think this is any different from a child abuse case. If you saw a child that was a year old or two years old that was put in these conditions it would obviously be child abuse. I don't think elderly people should be any different."
An autopsy completed Tuesday morning showed that she died of malnourishment, neglect, and dehydration. It was ruled a homicide.
Investigators say there were no signs of an outside illness, but report that she had dementia.
Court records show that Judy Smothers was named the guardian of her mother in 2009.
We're told Theresa Smothers was receiving retirement payments from her late husband that Judy was supposed to be managing. It's still unclear what social security or disability money she may have been receiving.
A preliminary hearing for Smothers will be held on Monday, June 5.
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