Two Las Cruces, New Mexico women have been charged with criminal neglect after police found their elderly relative trapped in a trailer, with her toes gnawed off by animals.
“[The animals] had completely eaten or removed all parts of the toes,” said Deputy District Attorney Steven Blankinship. “There was very little blood left. I imagine it was extremely horrific for her to go through that and not have anybody there who was going to help her.”
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Maria Najera’s primary caretakers were her daughter, Angelique Del Hierro, and her daughter-in-law, Lori Del Hierro. Lori Del Hierro claimed that her mother-in-law “felt no pain” from the animal bites, since her lower extremities were mostly numb. According to the Sun-News, Lori Del Hierro was a former nursing home employee with a record of criminal activity.
Authorities found Najera in an “extremely filthy” trailer, with an “odor of urine,” and “holes in the floors where animals could come and go as they please,” said Blankenship. Najera was in a diaper when authorities discovered her, on Dec. 20, 2010. Najera died of pneumonia on Dec. 30.
Along with the elder abuse charges, the Del Hierros also face federal fraud charges. Both women allegedly used Najera’s Medicare and Social Security payments to pay their own bills.
On January 17, New Mexico will decide whether to earmark additional money for its 71 nursing homes, after a cut in funding in October. I can only hope this tragic story illuminates the state’s need for better elder care programs.
New Mexico Gov. Wants Cash to Help Nursing Homes Jan 5, 2012 The New Mexican