Bedbugs kill woman, caretaker faces charges
A Pennsylvania woman died last year from bedbug bite complications. The insects had invaded the care facility where she was housed.
Now, the woman’s 72-year-old caretaker Deborah Butler faces felony charges including involuntary manslaughter and neglect of care.
Last February, West Manheim Township Police entered the southern Pennsylvania home and noticed the bed bugs. They crawled on walls and along ledges. They scurried on the bed sheets and pillow where an elderly woman slept in a first-floor room. She told officers she was blind, but could “feel them crawling.” Sometimes, she added, they bit her, too.
Paramedics, police said, would later check on that woman, but did not notice any visible injuries. Police said another woman, 96-year-old Mary Stoner, was staying at the home. Two weeks after the visit, Stoner was dead.
An autopsy determined her cause of death was from “complications of sepsis followed by bed bug infestation,” according to charging documents.
Stoner’s family moved her out of Butler’s home on Feb. 3, 2016, after noticing her health worsen. During previous visits, Stoner’s family told police she was in good health. On Feb. 6, Stoner was brought to the emergency room, where doctors found sores on her skin. Staff members were under the opinion the woman’s infection was a result of bed bug bites.
Stoner was discharged from the hospital about a week later, only to be readmitted again. Doctors said she had pneumonia.
She died a week later.
The women, police said, stayed with Butler at her home. Butler provided food, shelter, clothing as well as personal and health care. Both women paid for the care services, documents state.
In talking with police prior to Stoner’s death, Butler told them she had been trying to get rid of the bed bugs since September 2015 and had used store-bought supplies. She said she could not afford an exterminator and blamed Stoner for bringing in the bugs, documents state.
Butler, who was charged last week, had taken Stoner to her family doctor in January because Stoner had been scratching her neck and been sick. Butler did not mention bed bugs during the doctor’s appointment, police said, and Stoner didn’t mention them either.
In the coming weeks, Butler said she noticed no change in Stoner’s condition. But police said “evidence later indicated that the victim’s condition would have been clearly visible and obvious that serious medical attention was required.”
Stoner received no further medical treatment until her family took her to York Hospital. In the week after Stoner’s death, police said they searched Butler’s home and found bed bugs in various stages of their life cycle.