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First responders find elderly woman in ‘ungodly’ squalor

Officials said responders discovered 75-year-old Nancy Parker on the floor of her living room in her own urine and feces, where she had been for five days

By Hadley Barndollar
Portsmouth Herald

BRENTWOOD, N.H. — When the Exeter Fire Department was called to assist an elderly woman in distress on Feb. 17, 2016, its first responders were horrified by what they found.

In Rockingham Superior Court Monday, elder abuse prosecutor Brandon Garod of the New Hampshire attorney general’s office said paramedics dry-heaved, some having to apply vapor rub under their noses, when they arrived at the 4 Willow St. mobile home. They discovered 75-year-old Nancy Parker on the floor of her living room in her own urine and feces, he said, where she had been for five days.

Monday marked opening statements and the start of testimony in the trial of Meritel Saintil, 35, of Baltimore, Maryland, who is charged with negligent homicide, elder neglect and failure to report abuse. Parker was her grandmother.

Saintil’s mother, Katherine Saintil-Brown, of Houston, Texas, is also charged in Parker’s death. Her trial is scheduled for January.

Saintil and Saintil-Brown moved in with Parker in 2014 to take care of her, after her husband died in 2012, Garod said. In February 2016, Garod said, Parker was in the same spot on her living room floor for five days, urinating and defecating on herself, while Saintil and Saintil-Brown continued to live with her in the residence.

Parker was initially transported to Exeter Hospital on the fifth day, Feb. 17, 2016, after Saintil-Brown eventually called for help. Parker later died from a necrotizing soft tissue infection at a Massachusetts hospice.

Saintil’s attorney Justin Shepherd, in opening statements, said, “She didn’t kill her grandmother. She didn’t abuse her grandmother. Her grandmother was her best friend. She loved her grandmother and she abided by her grandmother’s wishes.”

Both the prosecution and defense agreed upon the fact that Parker was a “stubborn woman,” who had many health issues and was very particular about from whom she would accept help. Garod said she had a deep distrust in doctors, yet was incapable of caring for herself. The defense argued that Saintil “tried to the best of her ability to get her grandmother off the floor,” but listened to Parker when she said she did not want medical attention.

Garod and several Exeter firefighters told the court a McDonald’s cheeseburger was found laying on the floor by Parker’s head. Garod said Saintil told firefighters Parker hadn’t been eating so they “threw her a cheeseburger.”

Saintil “gave her food, gave her blankets,” Shepherd said. “She took care of her grandmother to the extent Nancy would allow. You’re going to hear from the firefighters this is a residence we wouldn’t wish our worst enemy to live in. But that was her reality, that was what she grew up in, that was the norm for her. And as jurors, I ask you to try and understand that.”

Garod said medical professionals will testify later in the trial that evaluating Parker at the hospital became “extremely difficult because of the amount of feces that she had on her body.”

“A nurse will tell you that Nancy was literally covered from her waist to her toes in layers of old, dried feces,” he said.

When opening statements concluded, Saintil cried into tissues as her attorneys comforted her.

Exeter firefighters Timothy Sirois, Lee Dawson, Mike Avellino and Mark Bradford testified about the conditions they entered when they were called to the Willow Street residence.

“It’s difficult to see someone who had obviously been left on the ground for an extended period of time,” Dawson said. “If you do this long enough, a lot of calls blend together but this is one that has stood out since 2016. To let someone lay there for days and days, what it appeared to be, it’s tough to get that out of your head.”

Dawson called the smell of the mobile home “breathtaking, nasty, just about any other adjective I could bring up.”

Bradford said the odor was “ungodly, like a giant cat box.”

“Nobody seemed overly concerned in the household for any of the questions that were asked or the situation,” Dawson added.

Shepherd questioned the firefighters about a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment, as Parker allegedly told them several times she did not want to leave her home. The firefighters said Parker didn’t know what day of the week it was, or the name of the president of the United States. Responders deemed she was in an unfit mental state.

“The overriding principle is if she tells you she doesn’t want to go, that’s her right,” Shepherd argued. “But in this situation, a cooperative decision was made to override that and take her to the hospital.”

The trial is expected to last throughout the week with testimony continuing Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Copyright 2017 Portsmouth Herald