FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jackson, MS - A former personal care home owner has plead guilty for her part in covering up the 2010 death of a personal care home resident who died of hypothermia, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.
Stephanie Fields, 35, pleaded guilty yesterday before Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd for her part in the death of personal care home resident Janice Hollins.
Fields entered an open plea (meaning she threw herself on the mercy of the court). Judge Kidd ordered a pre-sentencing evaluation and set sentencing for December 14. Several family members of Fields’ victims say they plan to address the court at sentencing.
“This was one of the most egregious cases of exploitation I have seen,” said Attorney General Hood. “The defendant refused to accept the lengthy sentence our office recommended and threw herself on the mercy of the court. I hope she gets no mercy, because she showed none to her victims.”
In January, 2010, personal care home employee Eugenia Johnson threw water on Hollins and then forced the victim into an unheated bedroom with a broken window, in which temperatures were well below freezing. Hollins remained in the room for several hours with neither dry clothes nor bed covers, and subsequently died from the cold.
Fields aided Johnson by assisting in the cover up of the crime by dressing Hollins’ body in dry clothing, moving her body to a new location, and failing to notify authorities of Hollins? death for more than 24 hours. Fields also relocated potential witnesses to an undisclosed location. Fourteen mentally disturbed individuals were staying in Fields? personal care home at the time of the manslaughter.
The cover-up indictment was one of three separate indictments to which Fields pled guilty. The second charged her with one count identity theft, three counts felonious use of Social Security number to obtain goods and services and three counts felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. In all, Fields admitted to the court that she obtained $8010.48 in goods using the identity of an elderly man diagnosed with severe dementia who was in her care. The victim had been removed from Fields care and lived out his remaining days at the Veteran?s Home.
The third indictment charged Fields with felony exploitation of a total of 15 mentally disturbed individuals. Fields admitted to obtaining more than $85,000 from the individuals while serving in the role of a caretaker by illegally or improperly using them and their resources for her own profit or advantage, and in doing so, failed to provide adequate shelter, food, water, heat or prescribed medications. The condition of the home was deplorable, with all individuals living in the three-bedroom structure with no heat during a time when temperatures fell below freezing and water pipes were bursting all over the city of Jackson due to the freezing conditions in 2010.
Fields, who has been in jail since Feb. 23, 2011 in an unrelated case for abuse of a vulnerable adult, faces a maximum of 215 years in prison and $236,000 in fines, as well as restitution in the amount of $93,131.80.
Investigators Jamie Patrick, David Domino and Jason Statham with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case. Special Assistant Attorney General Sue Perry prosecuted the case.