When officials found the 71-year-old Indiana man in late May, he was sitting on the front porch of his Greenwood home on Paradise Court, covered in feces, wearing a dirty shirt and a soiled adult diaper. He weighed 100 pounds.
They’d been tipped off by a neighbor, local news reported, who saw him stumble outside. She decided to call authorities.
After a months-long investigation, the man’s wife – 69-year-old Darlene K. Dickinson – was arrested Tuesday and faces two felony counts of neglect of a dependent. Her estranged daughter, Cindi Moutschk, videotaped the entire arrest.
“Mom’s getting arrested today and I’m smiling about it, you know,” Moutschk told WISH TV. “She deserves to having something done to her.”
For two years, Dickinson had kept her ill, aging husband locked away in a bedroom inside their Greenwood home, according to court documents obtained by the TV station. She withheld his medication, fed him just one meal a day, from Meals on Wheels, and allotted him a can of warm Pepsi to drink, WISH TV reported. He had left his bedroom just once.
When authorities investigated the home, according to court documents, they found the majority of it mostly clean, reported NBC affiliate WTHR – except for the man’s bedroom.
“His room was covered in trash, covered in rotten food, was covered in feces,” Johnson County Deputy Prosecutor Shaina Carmichael told WTHR. “He was extremely thin, malnourished and needed care. His life and his welfare was being endangered and we believe that was knowing and intentional.”
Because of the filth, flies swarmed, the man told authorities, and the infestation was so bad he covered his head with a blanket to sleep, reported the Indianapolis Star.
The man told police he had a stroke in 2000, court documents show, rendering him unable to operate a vehicle. He and his wife moved from Las Vegas to Greenwood in 2006, reported the Daily Journal, where his health took another downward turn. A sore on his foot became infected, Moutschk told WISH TV, and Dickinson refused to get it treated. The infection spread, Moutschk said, and her father developed gangrene. Doctors were forced to amputate his leg below the knee.
His immobility, the daughter said, was one of the reasons her father couldn’t escape his horrendous living conditions.
“When (Dickinson) would leave, he said she would take his prosthetic leg so he couldn’t get out of the house,” Moutschk told WISH TV. “There was no phone so he couldn’t call anyone.”
The children – Moutschk and her brother – had a falling-out with Dickinson before the discovery of the alleged abuse, the daughter said, and were not allowed to visit their father.
Lisa Tiedemann, the neighbor who called authorities when she saw the elderly man stumble onto his front porch, told WTHR she grew suspect of Dickinson when she realized it had been months since she’d seen the man.
“When you’re over there as much as I was and you see nothing?” Tiedemann told the TV station. “It’s kind of a red flag.”
He never appeared on the porch, even when the weather was nice, the neighbor said. When she questioned Dickinson about her husband’s whereabouts, Tiedemann told WTHR, the woman grew defensive.
“I said I have to figure this out,” the neighbor said.
Tiedemann waited for a day in May, when Dickinson had left the house, to walk next door and explore. She approached the bedroom window, she told WTHR, where she found bugs and the old man begging for help.
“He was in a very dirty T-shirt, in a diaper, and covered in feces,” Tiedemann told the TV station. “Yeah, it was bad. It was the worst thing I’d ever seen. So yeah, she pretty much, he was at her mercy.”
Since he was discovered by Tiedemann and authorities, the old man, according to court documents, has regained his strength and gained at least 30 pounds. He is now living with his son.
Dickinson, according to the Johnson County jail, is being held on $2,400 bond. It was unclear, based on local news reports early Wednesday morning, if the woman had obtained a lawyer.
Tiedemann visited the elderly man several weeks ago, she told WTHR. He called her a hero. She dismissed that label and said her act was only friendship.
“He’s very thankful,” she told the TV station. “He says I saved his life, but it’s just. . .what we do. . . He’s okay now. He’s okay.”
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