Courts • Accused is confined to wheelchair, requires oxygen, lawyer says.
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Citing the defendant's declining health, prosecutors have dismissed charges against a 62-year-old woman accused of neglecting her 90-year-old mother-in-law.
Nadine Barker was scheduled for trial Wednesday on one count of second-degree felony aggravated abuse or neglect of a disabled or elder adult. The case was dismissed Monday in 3rd District Court.
Charges allege that Nadine Barker is one of two people responsible for Beatrice Barker, who was found on June 6, 2009, alone in a West Valley City apartment suffering from weight loss, kidney failure, pneumonia and multiple bed sores. She died eight days later.
Defense attorney Manny Garcia said Tuesday that dismissing the case against Nadine Barker was "the right thing to do," given that she is confined to a wheelchair and requires oxygen.
But Garcia said he had been prepared to argue for Nadine Barker's innocence at trial, and to attack what he considers a flawed statute.
Garcia said that anyone who assumes responsibility for providing care to a vulnerable adult may be considered a caretaker under the law.
"If you provide food or medication, you're obliged, according to statute," Garcia said. "And that carries criminal liability if something goes wrong."
He said that even though Nadine Barker bought groceries, fixed an occasional meal and took the alleged victim to a doctor every three months, "she was never obliged to be a daily caretaker."
Garcia claimed daily care was the responsibility of Angie Dee Barker, 37, who also is charged with aggravated abuse or neglect of a disabled or elder adult.
Angie Barker is a daughter-in-law of Nadine and Corin Barker whom they hired to feed and bathe the elderly woman, and who, at one point, lived with her children at the elderly woman's apartment.
But charging documents indicate that while Angie Barker was hired to provide daily care, it was Nadine Barker who oversaw that care. Charges also state that Nadine Barker told police "she was aware of Beatrice's injuries and did bandage her bedsore."
Garcia noted that it was Nadine Barker who called 911 two years ago after finding the elderly woman was ill and alone.
During a search of the elderly woman's residence, police found mold growing in an empty refrigerator and empty prescription bottles. In Beatrice Barker's bedroom was a box spring and mattress on the floor covered with stains believed to caused by the elderly woman's bedsores, charges state.
"Five months before she died, she was fine," Garcia said of the alleged victim. "Something went wrong. We think Angie was using drugs."
He noted that just last week, Angie Barker was charged with first-degree felony drug possession for having six morphine pills during a recent traffic stop.
On another front, Nadine Barker's husband, 61-year-old Corin Barker, is charged with exploitation of a disabled or elder adult for allegedly draining his mother's bank account of $100,000.
Charges against Corin Barker state that in 2006 he was granted power of attorney for his aging parents, gaining control of their bank accounts, which included $40,000 in Social Security checks and other retirement savings. When Corin Barker's father died in 2007, an insurance company paid his mother $62,241 in benefits, which also went into a joint account, charges state.
Police later determined Corin Barker had control of nearly $103,000 of his parents' money in October 2007, but by June 2009 had spent all but about $2,000, according to charges.
Corin Barker told investigators he spent about half of the money on his parents' care and the rest "for his own benefit," according to charges.
Corin and Angie Barker each have scheduling hearings next month in 3rd District Court. No trial dates are set.
Blake Nakamura with the Salt Lake County District Attorneys Office said caretakers of the elderly and disabled need not worry if something goes wrong, unless there is criminal culpability. "We'll look at the specific facts," Nakamura said.