Published: February 27, 2014
The daughter of a 98-year-old Colorado Springs woman who authorities believe had been lying on her bathroom floor up to two weeks before she died was arrested on suspicion of crimes against an at-risk adult, Colorado Springs police said Thursday.
Jeanne Hagio, 66, was arrested Wednesday after police determined her mother, Yuta M. Hagio, had not received care for weeks and was living in a home authorities condemned after she died, according to a news release.
The elderly woman hadn't showered in at least two months and had worn the same shirt for a month, according to an arrest affidavit. She had not had solid food in more than three weeks, and had drank only soda, the affidavit said.
The El Paso County Coroner's Office determined Yuta Hagio died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a condition in which artery walls thicken. Dehydration, the coroner said, was a contributing factor in her death.
Police found Yuta Hagio's emaciated body on Jan. 13 on the bathroom floor of a residence on the 2400 block of Flintridge Drive, where a doctor concluded she had been lying for one to two weeks, the affidavit said. The 4-feet, 6-inch tall woman weighed 64 pounds when she was found. Her upper back was covered in sores,
"The house had trash piled up to about three to four feet high," the affidavit stated. "The home had feces from rats, dogs, and cats throughout the home."
Colorado Springs Code Enforcement condemned the residence, which the Hagio family had owned since 1995, according to the El Paso County Assessor's records. The Pikes Peak Humane Society removed all animals, police said.
Two neighbors said they were surprised by reports of the conditions in the home, and said they had seen the elderly woman outside shortly before she died. The neighbors said she would sit on the porch or a nearby bench, watch children come home from school, and pet dogs that were being walked. Jeanne Hagio, or "Mitsy" as neighbors called her, would bring her sandwiches and lemonade, they said. "She's got a big heart," said neighbor Todd Auge, who's lived across the street from the women for two and half years. "She never did anything but love her mother. She was a sweet lady." Neighbors also reported that, after the woman's death, a church group had come to help clean up the house, which is no longer condemned. Auge said another neighbor has rounded up a group of veterans to come to the home and replace the carpet. "I know that Mitsy had some mental deficiencies," Auge said. "She needs help. She doesn't need to be persecuted."
During interviews with investigators, Jeanne Hagio said she had been her mother's caretaker for more than 20 years and they lived together in the house, supporting themselves with Social Security and her dead father's military retirement. Jeanne Hagio said her mother was not taking medications and had not seen a doctor in months, adding that she did not think there was anything wrong with how she cared for the elderly woman, the affidavit stated.
"Jeanne stated her mother would either sleep on the chair that was by the front door or on the floor in the bathroom," the affidavit read. According to police, the chair was covered in trash and did not appear as if anyone had sat in it for a long time.
The deplorable conditions of the home and what police investigators believe may have been long-term neglect had not caught the attention of social services. Chris Garvin, aging and adult services director for Adult Protective Services, a division of the El Paso County Department of Human Services. Garvin said the agency never received a report of abuse involving Yuta Hagio, or her daughter.
"We didn't hear about what happened until after she was found dead," Garvin said. "From what has been reported about the conditions they were living in, Yuta Hagio's case would've been considered a priority code one."
Suspected elderly abuse and exploitation cases vary in severity, investigators with the Colorado Springs police Crimes Against Elders Unit said. One of the greatest challenges for law enforcement responding to reports of elder abuse and neglect, said Det. Charles Szatkowski, is the family dynamic that is often involved.
"In a vast majority of elder abuse cases, it is a family member who is the offender, about 90 percent of the time," Szatkowski said. "The relationship is very similar to a domestic violence situation, where the victim is dependent on their abuser financially, physically and emotionally."
Jeanne Hagio was arrested on suspicion of crimes against an at-risk adult - a felony - and caretaker neglect - a misdemeanor, police said. She will be advised of the charges at the El Paso County courthouse on March 5, court records show.
Anyone can call police at 444-7000 if they suspect elder abuse.
Gazette reporter Lisa Walton contributed to this story.