Columbia Co. woman charged after mother's body found in home

Denise Chinnery (WRDW-TV)

Denise Chinnery (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, April 29, 2013

HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW) -- One woman is dead and another is in jail after deputies say they found 74-year-old Catherine Simmons' body in her home.

Columbia County deputies were called out to the 6000 block of Mahala Lane in Harlem Sunday around 4:30 p.m. That's when they say they found the body that had been there about a week. Her daughter had been living there the whole time, too.

When you walk near the mobile home, a very distinct smell greets you.

Sabrina Benson, who lives next door, describes it as, "When you've hit an animal down the road, and that decaying smell, it smelled like that but stronger, like an ammonia smell to it."

Investigators say that smell only comes from one thing: a decaying body.

"I knew it had to be a death because the crime van pulled in, and then the coroner's van pulled in," Benson said.

Benson watched her neighbor's yard become a crime scene on Sunday as deputies began to put the pieces of a very bizarre puzzle together.

"I was terrified to even go down there and ask anybody any questions. I just don't want to know what happened because it scares me," she said.

Just behind the door of the overgrown mobile home, deputies say they found Simmons' dead body. She was sitting in a chair in the living room. They arrested her daughter and roommate, Denise Chinnery, for cruelty to persons 65 or older.

Benson watched the whole scene unfold as the daughter refused to let police in.

"They finally got her out of the way, and they got in. It was horrible," Benson said.

A horrible scene that neighbors like Benson are still trying to come to grips with.

"Just looking at the trailer at night, it just creeps me out still to know what happened down there, and nobody knew nothing about it, couldn't help or nothing it's very scary."

Neighbors say Chinnery was quiet and typically wanted to just be left alone, but they never saw something like this coming.

"I wonder if the woman, I mean, does she have a soul? Does she have feelings? Does she have emotions?" Benson said.

They don't have a cause of death yet for this case, but the coroner says there is an autopsy planned for Tuesday. Family friends told News 12 the woman had several health problems, including Alzheimer's disease.

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