SLAUGHTER, La. — A Louisiana couple may be charged with murder after their incapacitated 36-year-old daughter was found dead on a couch in January, emaciated and covered in her own waste.
Lacey Ellen Fletcher likely suffered for years before she died of “severe chronic neglect” at her parents’ home in Slaughter, East Feliciana Parish District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla told NOLA.com. At the time of her death, she weighed 96 pounds.
She also tested positive for COVID-19, though it was unclear how she was exposed, the prosecutor said. Her death was ruled a homicide.
D’Aquilla said he is seeking an indictment against Fletcher’s parents, Sheila and Clay Fletcher. Sheila Fletcher, 64, served for four years as a Slaughter town alderperson but resigned her post in February, the month after her daughter died, the news site reported.
Sheila Fletcher has also served as Slaughter’s mayor pro tem, as well as working as an assistant to the Zachary city prosecutor and as a police and court clerk in nearby Baker.
“They don’t want to relive the pain of losing a child through the media,” attorney Steven Moore said. “They have been through a lot of heartache over the years. Anyone who had lost a child knows what it’s like.”
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of alleged abuse and may be disturbing to some readers.
D’Aquilla described a horrific scene inside the Fletcher home, where authorities estimate that Lacey Fletcher spent years on a couch without moving. In a Jan. 18 interview with the news outlet, the Fletchers said their daughter was autistic and had severe social anxiety.
A neighbor told WBRZ that he last saw Lacey Fletcher outside the family’s home about five or six years ago. Robert Blades was surprised to learn she had died in January.
“I asked (Clay Fletcher) one day a couple of years ago because I hadn’t seen her,” Blades told the news station. “(He said), ‘Yeah, she still stays here.’”
Lacey Fletcher had not seen a doctor since 2010, and her parents said she refused to leave the couch even to go to the restroom. D’Aquilla said the couple was “adamant” that their daughter was “of sound mind to make her own type of decisions.”
The prosecutor expressed his doubts about their daughter’s ability to care for herself, as well as the care the couple provided.
“The question on everybody’s mind is, ‘How could they be caretakers living in the house with her and have her get in a condition like that?’” D’Aquilla said. “It’s cruelty to the infirm. We can’t just let it sit.”
According to authorities, Sheila Fletcher called 911 the morning of Jan. 3 and summoned deputies to the family’s home along Hog Bayou, about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge. When deputies arrived, they detected the stench of decay and human waste.
They found Lacey Fletcher on a couch, her feet in a hole worn through the upholstery and foam of the cushions, NOLA.com reported. D’Aquilla told the news site that she was sitting in waste and that she had ulcers on her backside so severe they were “rotten to the bone.”
Her matted hair was rife with maggots, he said. WBRZ described her as having “melted” into the couch.
Along with COVID-19 and the ulcers, Lacey Fletcher had multiple bacterial infections at the time of her death.
Her parents told investigators they brought their daughter her meals and set up a bedside toilet for her, but she would not use it, NOLA.com reported. They said they considered having Lacey Fletcher committed to a mental or medical facility but ultimately did not do so.
The parish coroner, Dr. Ewell Bickham III, told WBRZ that he has not seen a neglect case so severe in his 30 years as a doctor.
“I couldn’t eat for a week,” Bickham told the news station. “And I cried for a week.”
D’Aquilla said he hopes to see second-degree murder indictments handed down in the case. He and East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Jeff Travis decided to let a grand jury determine if charges are warranted because of the complexities of the case.
The prosecutor said he believes the couple’s alleged treatment of their daughter, or lack thereof, rises to the level of second-degree murder.
“On a murder, you have to have intent,” D’Aquilla told NOLA.com. “Did they want to kill her? I want to say yeah, they wanted to kill her.”
The grand jury is expected to make a decision by May 2. If charged with murder, the couple would face the possibility life in prison without the chance of parole.
They could also face lesser charges of manslaughter, cruelty to the infirm or negligent homicide, WAFB in Baton Rouge reported.
©2022 Cox Media Group