Woman charged with manslaughter
STEWARTVILLE — A 73-year-old woman from rural Stewartville has been charged by summons with second-degree manslaughter after a woman in her care died in what authorities are calling "an unusual case of neglect that's gone horribly wrong."
Shirley Ann Kraemer, of 3229 Kraemer Road NE, also faces two counts of felony criminal neglect of a vulnerable adult. Her first appearance in Olmsted County District Court has been set for Jan. 26.
The investigation began Nov. 6, when deputies and medical personnel were sent to Kraemer's home for a report of an adult female with an infection who was unable to stand unassisted.
What they found was "a very disgusting scene; there's no other way to say it," said Olmsted County Sheriff Capt. Scott Behrns.
According to the criminal complaint against Kraemer, the 76-year-old victim — described only as a relative of the defendant — was found in a bedroom that had "an overwhelming odor of urine, waste, decay and rotting flesh."
Medical personnel noted the woman's flesh was heavily infected, with several open sores — some so deep her hip bones and ribs were exposed.
A portion of the woman's skin tore away from her body as responders moved her from the bed, the report says; though she was conscious, she was unable to speak, Behrns said.
Kraemer told deputies the woman had begun to decline about 10 years ago, "when her feet swelled up and turned black," court documents say. Kraemer took the victim to local health facilities, where she ultimately was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the complaint, Kraemer and the victim were "suspicious" of the facilities and didn't follow through with treatment.
Since then, Kraemer said, she'd been caring for the woman, telling authorities when the victim's skin began to ooze "brown stuff," she'd scrape it off and wash the area. In the past two months, though, Kraemer said the woman's skin became infected, with sores that also oozed.
The victim was in pain but didn't want to go to the hospital, Kraemer said, adding that she knew the woman should be treated. On Nov. 5, Kraemer said, the sores broke open. She called the ambulance the next day, telling authorities she felt bad for not calling earlier, the complaint says.
Though Kraemer claimed she changed the bed sheets every two weeks and had given the victim a sponge bath several days earlier, "the care she rendered was inconsistent" with law enforcement's observations at the home.
Medical staff found the woman to be suffering from "severe, profound physical neglect:" Her right pelvic bone was exposed by an open wound, as were about seven of her ribs. She had dead skin "on all of her extremities," the complaint says.
Kraemer told doctors the woman hadn't eaten for two days, nor was she taking any medication at home.
The woman died early Nov. 9. The preliminary autopsy report indicates she died as a result of septic shock, severe sepsis and infections of the skin, soft tissue and bone.
A neighbor told law enforcement that Kraemer had recently said she was "concerned for the victim's health," the criminal complaint says, but the two women didn't believe in modern medicine. He described them as "paranoid."
Other relatives were aware of the situation, Behrns said, and Kraemer "didn't seem that upset" by the victim's condition.
The manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both. The neglect charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a$10,000 fine, or both.