GREENWOOD, Ind – A neglect case involving a disabled man who was removed from deplorable conditions in May was first reported to an investigative agency in January, according to friends and family of the victim.
Darlene Dickinson, 69 Greenwood, was arrested Tuesday and faces two felony counts of neglect of a dependent. Court documents filed in Johnson County say Darlene kept her 71-year old husband, Hugh Dickinson, shut inside his room for two years in the home they shared in the 1100 block of Paradise Court.
The criminal investigation began May 19, when neighbor, Lisa Tiedemann, saw Hugh stumbling out the front door of the home.
Tiedemann says she had suspected something was wrong in the house for some time, but did not realize the extent of the neglect until Darlene Dickinson left the home May 19 and Tiedemann went to look in the window to Hugh Dickinson’s room. She says the window was covered with curtains that were pinned shut, and there were flies and gnats on the window glass.
“I said ‘are you hungry,’ he said ‘yes.’ I said ‘are you thirsty,’ he said ‘yes.’ So I said ‘hold on, I’ll be back to get you in 15 minutes.’”
About five minutes later, Tiedemman says she saw Hugh struggling to walk out the front door of the house.
“He had a t-shirt on, which was covered in food, bugs,” said Lisa Tiedemann. “He had a diaper on. And he had feces, from his head to his toes.”
Tiedemann went to a nearby Greenwood Fire station to report the situation and Greenwood Police were called to the home.
Court documents say Hugh Dickinson was found to be in poor health, malnourished and weighed 100 pounds when he was removed from the home. The Greenwood officer who inspected the home said “the residence seemed to be clean and in good order except for the room Hugh lived in,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
“There was trash and feces all over the floor and all over the furniture, including the bed that Hugh sleeps in. There were flies all over the room and old food throughout the room,” according to court documents.
Hugh Dickinson also told police that when cleaners came to the house, they never went into his room. Tiedemann said when she came to the home to help clean, Darlene Dickinson would never let her enter Hugh’s room.
Hugh told investigators he had suffered a stroke in 2000, which made him unable to drive. He also had trouble getting around because his left leg had been amputated about three years ago. He told police he had lost his leg because Darlene had refused to seek medical treatment for a sore on his leg that developed gangrene.
Hugh stated he had only come out of his bedroom one time in two years, and Darlene had not given him any of his prescription medication for two years.
He also said Darlene only fed him one Meals on Wheels meal per day, with a warm Pepsi.
Tiedemann said Hugh told her that Darlene would normally take his prosthetic leg with her when she left the house in an effort to keep him from leaving the home. But on May 19, Darlene left the leg at the house, which enabled Hugh to get out the front door.
The criminal investigation that started May 19 resulted in Darlene Dickinson’s arrest Tuesday.
But court documents indicate that Adult Protective Services had visited the home prior to May:
“Lisa (Tiedemann) further stated that in the past, Darlene called her and told Lisa that ‘social services’ had just left Darlene’s residence and that she needed Lisa to lie to them. Darlene told Lisa that if ‘social services’ asked, she needed Lisa to tell them that Lisa bathed Hugh, fed Hugh and took care of Hugh every week. Lisa told Darlene, ‘I can’t do that, I haven’t seen Hugh in two years.’”
Tiedemann said that visit from Adult Protective Services happened in January, at which time the investigator was met by Darlene at the door and turned away.
People close to the situation say they were told by APS that subsequent visits to the home were not done because the agency didn’t have the manpower.
Officials with Adult Protective Services declined to comment on whether a January visit occurred and offered no comment on the case Wednesday.
Four months after being removed from the home, Hugh Dickinson’s daughter Cindi Moutschk says her father is doing much better. He has regained about 30 pounds and is living much more comfortably with his son, Cindi’s brother.
Darlene Dickinson bonded out of the Johnson County jail after being booked on two felony counts of neglect of a dependent. Her next court hearing has not yet been scheduled.