Deborah Yvonne Hill and Brittany Hurst have been charged in the death of Blanche Carpenter. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 26, 2011)
News 12 First at Five / Monday, Aug. 29, 2011
MARTINEZ, Ga. -- It is an unspeakable crime -- letting an elderly relative waste away to their death, but Columbia County investigators say a serious case of cruelty has now become a homicide.
Charges against a mother and daughter have been upgraded from cruelty to murder after an 85-year-old woman was found dead.
Investigators say the charges may not end there.
From the outside, it looks like every other Martinez home, but investigators say inside, it was anything but ordinary.
"This is unusual, very unusual. The seriousness and to the extent is what's so unusual," said Columbia County Sheriff's Cpt. Steve Morris. "Not many people around here, who's been around for a while, has seen anything like this."
Friday investigators combed the home searching for evidence after 85-year old Blanche Carpenter was found dead inside Thursday night. The autopsy showed the woman had been dead in the home for two days.
"The cause was neglect, the manner ... homicide," Morris said.
Carpenter's great-niece Deborah Hill and Hill's 18-year-old daughter Brittany Hurst were supposed to be taking of her. Instead, they've been charged with her murder.
"After receiving the preliminary autopsy report Friday afternoon and considering all of the known facts surrounding this case, both were charged with murder," Morris said.
The coroner's office said Carpenter died of neglect. They say she was not given food or water for days, maybe even weeks. Animal control also removed 28 cats and two dogs from the home, all of which were living in their own urine and feces.
"Malnutrition, dehydration, deplorable living conditions," Morris said. "It was pretty bad and that's really saying it mildly."
Carpenter's 86-year-old sister, Ruth McClendon, who is also Hill's grandmother, was taken to the hospital for similar medical problems. Doctors say she's doing better.
"It could have been much worse; fortunately, we arrived when we did," Morris said.
Hill's disabled husband and three young children were also removed from the home and taken into protective services. The mother and daughter will likely face more charges of cruelty.
Investigators say the family had just moved to Martinez from Albany, Ga., about three weeks ago. Investigators tell News 12 they are looking into their past in south Georgia.
News 12 spoke with some of Carpenter's other relatives. They are still obviously very upset but say she did not deserve to die this way. Family members describe her as a private person who never married and served her country in World War II.