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Precedent-Setting Conviction in Abused Mother’s Death
“It is believed to be the first time in Canada that elder abuse has been declared an indirect cause of manslaughter.”
A judge has broken new legal ground by ruling that a man is guilty of manslaughter who admitted to slapping, starving and neglecting his frail elderly mother and allowing her to lie in squalor for days until her death.
It is believed to be the first time in Canada that elder abuse has been declared an indirect cause of manslaughter.
Donald Noseworthy allowed his 78-year-old mother, Mary, stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, to lie “in filth and squalor and with deplorable hygiene” in the east Toronto bungalow they shared, Superior Court Justice Edward Then said yesterday.
Although the emaciated senior died of congestive heart failure, her son’s neglect and beatings contributed significantly to her death, Then ruled, agreeing with arguments advanced by prosecutors Rosemarie Juginovic and Patrick Woods. Justice Edward Then noted he was unable to find any direct precedents to guide him.
Noseworthy, 55, confessed to police, in a videotaped statement played in court, that he kicked and hit his mother a few days before her death on July 14, 2005, to the extent of hurting his hand.
He admitted that he treated his elderly dog better than his starving mother. “I did have my priorities backwards,” he said. “I could communicate with the dog more.”
Although his mother lay on her back on her bedroom floor, not eating and hardly drinking in her final four days, he admitted he did not call 911 for fear he would be charged for the slaps and kicks he had inflicted on her during the previous nine months.
“I was just hoping that maybe she ? her face would get better and even though it wasn’t and you know I’d, I’d do it again,” he told Toronto police homicide detectives Joel Kulmatycki and Peter Code.
Another police officer testified that Noseworthy admitted he “bitch-slapped her” when she didn’t respond to his questions.
Dr. Michael Pollanen, a forensic pathologist with the Centre of Forensic Sciences, noted that the 93 pound, 5-foot, 3-inch woman had blunt impact injuries to her face, inner mouth, neck, chest, hips and limbs. She had a healing ulceration on her right leg. There were green oxidation stains on her skin from pennies left on her body and from her metal wristwatch. She was malnourished.
“There was unwashed dirt-encrusted skin, urine/fecal staining of skin and clothing, dirty overgrown toenails and matting of the hair,” the pathologist said in a report. Her right foot was clad in an extensively worn and hardened sock. The toe of the sock had been sliced by overgrown toenails.
The pain and stress of the beatings contributed to Mary Noseworthy’s heart failure, the pathologist found. The official cause of death was “valvular and ischemic heart disease in a frail, aged woman with Alzheimer’s disease and elder abuse with neglect.”
When the judge rendered his verdict yesterday, the slender man with thinning, back-combed grey hair shook his head in apparent disagreement. But he soon turned to a male relative in court and nodded vigorously.
Noseworthy had already pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life.
He told the detectives in his statement that he tried to get his mother to drink some tea or lemonade. “But you know what? In my heart … I knew she was starving to death.”
She eventually “went nuts,” defecating and urinating, he said. “And I got mad at her so she picks up a lot of s— and she throws it at me.”
Noseworthy said that the night before her death he came home and found her lying in the same position she had lain in for days.
He told the detectives that he asked her, “What are you doing. … I can’t deal with it any more.” He then mimed slapping her, adding that sometimes he “lost control a little bit.”
He said, by way of explanation to the detectives, that maybe they never had to live with someone like his mother “day after day.”
Noseworthy found his mother dead in the house they shared on Westcroft Dr., near Kingston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E. He finally called 911, telling the dispatcher: “I smacked her a couple of times, you know.”
A police officer arriving on the scene said he was overwhelmed by the stench of feces and urine in the house.
Bill MacKenzie, Noseworthy’s lawyer, told reporters outside the University Ave. courthouse that this is a unique case. He added that he hoped his client, who is of no threat to society, will be sentenced to time served.
Noseworthy has been in jail for 18 months, which would normally be credited at a rate of two days for one served. The sentencing hearing is set for March 2.
Kulmatycki told reporters that the finding of manslaughter for non-lethal injuries to an elderly person was without precedent in Canada. “It’s a great win for us.”
The detective added that when he and Code first visited the home, they thought it was a case of manslaughter, based simply on common sense. “I thought it was horrible.”
Noseworthy claimed he had gotten medical attention for his mother, but Kulmatycki had testified there was no record of her being treated, going back six years.
Donald Noseworthy found guilty of manslaughter in the death of his mother.
February 8, 2007
ALEX TAVSHUNSKY FOR THE TORONTO STAR
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