A high school photo of Lacey Ellen Fletcher, 36. The coroner told the DailyMail.com the horrific scene of the disabled woman covered in urine, feces, and insect bites
The parents of a 36-year-old autistic Louisiana woman who died ‘fused’ to a sofa by her own excrement will be charged with second-degree murder, a grand jury has decided.
The grand jury was selected in Clinton on Monday – with East Feliciana District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla pressing them to charge Clay Fletcher, 65, and Shiela Fletcher, 64, with second-degree murder for their daughter Lacey Ellen Fletcher’s death.
It would mean life sentences for the couple if convicted. A trial date has not yet been set.
The decision to indict the couple came as the sheriff investigating the case, Jeffery Travis told DailyMail.com exclusively that Lacey was allowed to ‘just rot away’.
Lacey’s emaciated body was discovered partially naked, sitting upright and partly submerged in a hole in a couch covered from head to toe in urine, liquid feces, maggots and insect bites at her parents’ otherwise neat single family home in Slaughter on January 3.
DailyMail.com understands the 36-year-old had not seen a physician for 20 years – and some close neighbors of the parents in the small community of Slaughter, Louisiana, didn’t even know the couple had a daughter.
It’s understood that Lacey’s parents met with a forensic psychiatrist in 2010, and she was diagnosed with severe autism after she refused to leave the couch. They were also advised that she needed to be evaluated at a hospital, and be admitted to an inpatient facility under a commitment order, Coroner Dr Ewell Dewitt Bickham II told DailyMail.com.
When Lacey was found dead, her feet were crossed underneath her on the couch deep inside the hole that her long-suffering body had worn through both the upholstery and cushion.
Additionally it has been reported that Lacey had fecal matter shoved on her face, chest and abdomen. Her hair was matted, knotted and filled with maggots – and she weighed less than 100lbs.
East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Jeffery Travis told DailyMail.com at his courthouse office in nearby Clinton: ‘Intervention should have happened a long time before this tragedy.
‘You can’t just let someone rot away.
‘It is difficult to imagine how someone could get in that condition without family or friends stepping in. Believe me, there would have been help available.
‘The parents could have contacted authorities and had Lacey committed where she could have been assisted.’
A grand jury was selected in Clinton on Monday – with East Feliciana District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla pressing them to charge the Clay Fletcher, 65, and Shiela Fletcher, 64, with second-degree murder for their daughter Lacey Ellen Fletcher’s death. It would mean life sentences for the couple if convicted
A photo of the 2-story home located on Tom Drive where Lacey lived with her parents
Sheriff Travis would not be drawn on his personal feelings in the case, but added: ‘It’s horrible beyond anything I have had to deal with and I would say even that most people in the US have actually had to handle.
‘We had such a horrific scene out there. No one had reported anything to us.’
Sheriff Travis spoke out as a grand jury was being selected in Clinton on Monday – with East Feliciana District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla pressing them to charge the Fletchers with second degree murder, which would mean life sentences if convicted.
Sheriff Travis added: ‘If there is an indictment from the grand jury, an arrest warrant will be issued immediately for anyone indicted. The sheriff’s office doesn’t anticipate any problem picking up anyone who is indicted.’
The closed session of the 12-person jury was also being given the option to consider charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide.
The hearing was expected to be so distressing that medics were put on standby because of the graphic nature of the details and photographs that will be presented to them.
The Fletchers, considered outwardly respectable and pillars of their community, were not at the courthouse and have not been seen since new broke last week of the horror which was discovered on January 3. They were not arrested because they were not considered flight risks.
DailyMail.com understands Sheila Fletcher rang 911 at 2am to report her daughter had stopped breathing. The sheriff’s office sent a deputy to the ranch-style home 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.
But after confronting the horror, the deputy reported back and East Feliciana Parish Coroner Dr Ewell Dewitt Bickham III immediately came out.
He said: ‘The scene was sickening. I’ve seen some horrible things in my life but nothing like this.’ He said bedsores went all the way down to her bone.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE
Sheila Fletcher resigned from her position on the town board three weeks after daughter’s death
Clay Fletcher, shown with Sheila in undated photo, is an officer of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission ‘to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War’
A photo showing a close-up of the leather couch Lacey was fused to. The coroner estimates that Lacey was sitting in that hole in the couch for the last 12 years
Horrific photos issued by East Feliciana Parish Coroner’s Office revealed the feces smeared hole in the sofa where Bickham believes Lacey might have been sitting for the past 12 years.
The Fletchers were meant to be her care givers. ‘It’s unconscionable, something you make horror movies about,’ said Bickham.
The moment he arrived at the home he was hit by a stench so bad ‘it would almost make you run out of the house.’ He said he knew immediately it was a potential crime scene.
‘The parents were in the kitchen. They did not have an explanation,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t eat for a week and I cried for a week.’
He ruled her death a homicide with the cause as medical neglect – believing she passed 24 to 48 hours before his official time of death of 3.07am, January 3.
The tragedy is even more of a mystery as Sheila Fletcher worked for authorities that might have helped her daughter.
She was a police and court clerk in the small nearby city of Baker and more recently an assistant to the city prosecutor in Zachary, a slighter larger community also nearby.
The mom was also on Slaughter’s Board of Alderman but quit on January 24 following four years’ service and three weeks after the horror discovery.
Clay Fletcher is an officer of non-profit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission ‘to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War’.
The couple’s lawyer Steven Moore has said in a statement: ‘They don’t want to relive the pain of losing a child through the media.
‘They have been through a lot of heartache over the years. Anyone who had lost a child knows what it’s like.’
Before the grand jury hearing, the coroner said he would present the case with the hope of the parents being charged over the death. ‘I probably won’t even have to open my mouth, the pictures will show it,’ he said.
District Attorney D’Aquilla has said: ‘On a murder, you have to have intent. Did they want to kill her? I want to say yeah, they wanted to kill her.’
‘Negligent homicide is zero to five years, manslaughter is zero to 40 years and second-degree is life in prison. I will ask for second degree because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
‘We don’t treat animals or neglect animals in that way. If you have an animal in that condition you have to take them to a vet.
‘If you are not capable of providing the care then get help. We want people to know that if you are a caregiver of someone you need to pay attention. It is important for neighbors and the community to look out for each other. We hope this never happens again.’
He said the Fletchers claimed in 2011-2012 that Lacey didn’t want to leave the house and had not been to a doctor. He said the parents claimed she was able to communicate with them and apparently never complained.
D’Aquilla added it was not known when Lacey had last moved from the couch.
The Fletchers reportedly said Lacey developed ‘some degree of Asperger’s syndrome’ after 9th grade when she started being home schooled.
They insisted during an interview with law enforcement that she was the one who chose never to leave the couch and to relive herself there or on a nearby towel, it is reported. Sheila Fletcher said she routinely cleaned her daughter’s sores.
‘Mom and Dad love you so much,’ she wrote in a Facebook post after the death.
News of the January horror is breaking now as the autopsy report was not handed to East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office until March. At that point Sheriff Travis consulted with District Attorney D’Aquilla on a course of action that has resulted in this grand jury deliberation.
A new East Feliciana Parish grand jury is selected every six months, with a new one chosen today/Monday. Authorities decided it should be the new jury that decided the Fletcher case.