A church-going Louisiana couple who were seemingly a beacon in their community are facing second-degree murder charges after their adult daughter, who suffered from locked-in syndrome, was found dead in unconscionable conditions.
Shelia, 64, and Clay Fletcher, 65, will face a grand jury Monday after their 36-year-old daughter Lacey Ellen was found partially naked, sitting upright and submerged in a hole in a couch covered from head to toe in urine, liquid feces, insect bites, with live bugs and rodent excrement nearby at their otherwise tidy home in Slaughter, East Feliciana Parish Coroner Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III told the DailyMail.com on Thursday.
‘The scene was sickening. I’ve seen some horrible things in my life but nothing like this,’ said Bickham, a medical worker since the 1970s, adding that she had bed sores that went all the way down to her bone.
Lacey suffered from locked-in syndrome, a rare neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles, except for those that control the eyes.
Police arrived at the ranch-style home in the suburb north of Baton Rouge on January 3 after the parents called 911 because Lacey wasn’t breathing to find the ghastly scene, prosecutors said.
The parents were supposed to be the girl’s care providers, but Bickham said she had not been to a physician in 20 years.
‘It’s unconscionable something you make horror movies about,’ he said.
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
A photo showing a close-up of the leather couch Lacey was fused too. The coroner estimates that Lacey was sitting in that hole in the couch for the last 12 years
An undated photo of Clay, 65 and Sheila, 64, Fletcher standing in front of their Christmas tree
A photo of the 2-story home located on Tom Drive where Lacey lived with her parents
When he arrived at the home, he described the stench being so bad that, ‘it would almost run you out of the house.’
He told the DailyMail.com that he knew it was a ‘potential crime scene,’ and immediately called his detective.
‘The parents were in the kitchen. They did not have an explanation,’ he said.
He ruled her death a homicide and cause of death as medical neglect.
He recorded the official time of death as 3:07 am on January 3, 2022 but said he believes she was deceased at least 24-48 hours prior.
Sheila Fletcher has worked as a police and court clerk in Baker and more recently as an assistant to the city prosecutor in Zachary, report said.
According to her LinkedIn page, Sheila was a Slaughter official who resigned her post on the town’s Board of Aldermen on January 24, three weeks after her daughter’s death. She served for four years, most recently as mayor pro team.
State business filings show Clay Fletcher 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.’
The couple’s lawyer, Steven Moore, was unavailable for comment on Thursday when DailyMail.com contacted him.
However, on Wednesday, Moore issued a statement on his client’s behalf, BPProud reported.
‘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,’ Moore said.
On Monday, Bickham will present the case to a grand jury, in the hopes of charging the parents in the death of their daughter.
‘I probably won’t even have to open my mouth the pictures will show it,’ Bickham said.
He added: ‘The jurors are storekeepers, farmers many have never been exposed to this stuff so I asked that a medical team be outside the courtroom.’
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla told the Dailymail.com that the parents were never taken into custody because they’re not considered flight risks.
A 12-person jury will be in a closed session at the court house in Clinton, where they will decide on charges of manslaughter, negligent homicide or second-degree murder, he said.
‘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,’ he said.
D’Aquilla confirmed to DailyMail.com that Lacey’s parents were her primary caretakers, and that she did not have an aide.
‘We don’t treat animals or neglect our animals in that way. If you have an animal in that condition you take them to the vet,’ he said.
D’Aqulla told the DailyMail.com that Lacey had some issues that she went to see a psychiatrist for back in 1999 or early 2000s and that she had been anti-social.
He said that in 2011-2012, her parents claimed that she did not want to leave the house and had not been to a doctor. He said that Lacey’s parents claimed that she was able to communicate with them and that she apparently never complained.
‘If you are not capable of providing the care than get help,’ he said. ‘We want people to know that if you are a caregiver of someone you need to pay attention is it important for neighbors and the community to look out for each other. We hope this never happens again.’
According to a 2020 U.S. census, 882 people live in Slaughter, a town in East Feliciana Parish.
Many of the homes are spread out over acres, so when news of Lacey’s death broke many in the community were stunned with some having no idea that Clay and Shelia Fletcher even had a daughter.
‘They are appalled,’ said the coroner who spoke to some of the neighbors. ‘Some of these people were churchgoing friends who had no idea that there was another person in that house.