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Updated w/ coroner, sheriff, jail booking info: Parents arrested in son's death

Courtney Astolfi • Jun 19, 2014 at 7:19 PM


A Groton Township couple was arrested on manslaughter charges Wednesday after their adult son died over the weekend in what Erie County deputies described as one of the worst cases of medical neglect they'd ever seen.

David Arthur Sr., 54, and his wife, Deborah Arthur, 46, both of the 7400 block of Billings Road, were each charged with involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, and failing to provide for a functionally impaired person, a fourth-degree felony.

The pair turned themselves in Wednesday around 12:30 p.m. at the Erie County Sheriff's Office.

Deplorable conditions

Erie County deputies were called to the family's home Sunday morning after David Sr.'s biological son and Deborah's stepson, David Arthur Jr., 33, died, Erie County Chief Deputy Jared Oliver said.

When deputies entered the Arthurs' home that day, they were met with a grisly scene.

David Jr. was severely malnourished and covered in bed sores, Oliver said. According to a preliminary autopsy, David Jr.'s body weighed just 94 pounds. Just three years ago, he weighed more than 300 pounds, Erie County coroner Brian Baxter said.

“It appeared as if he'd basically been laying on the bed for an extended amount of time — (months) is a safe assumption,” Oliver said. Further, David Jr. had not visited a doctor in years, Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said.

David Jr. had been in bed so long there was an indentation in the shape of his body in the mattress, and the bedding was covered in human waste, according to investigators.

On Sunday, the couple told deputies David Jr. was essentially fine the day prior; they said he ate three meals on Saturday, deputies said.

However, Baxter reviewed the circumstances and the Lucas County Coroner's Office conducted an autopsy Tuesday. They found David Jr.'s death was caused by ongoing neglect, officials said.

He had pneumonia and multiple gaping ulcers, Baxter said. He added that David Jr. had so little body fat that the infected ulcers seeped all the way down to the bone tissue, causing some of the man's bones to protrude through the skin entirely.

“(The coroner) said the medical neglect was an overriding cause of his death,” Oliver said. “His condition was probably one of the worst I've ever seen.”

Parents took charge of medical care

David Sr. allegedly told investigators on Sunday that Deborah was David Jr.'s primary caretaker, due to how busy he was with work.

But Deborah herself even acknowledged the deplorable conditions in which David Jr. languished, Oliver said.

“She's an LPN who works in home healthcare, who, on her own admission, said she would've reported anyone else living in those conditions to her supervisor,” Oliver said.

In the three years David Jr. had lived at the Billings Road home, his condition markedly and rapidly declined, Sigsworth said, citing nursing home documents.

Officials are still trying to determine why the couple allegedly neglected David Jr. until it led to his death, Sigsworth said.

"We don't know why and that's the question. That's part of the ongoing investigation: to attempt to answer that question," Sigsworth said.

Medical history

David Jr. was involved in a motor vehicle accident about 15 years ago when he was still a teenager. As a result, he spent a prolonged period of time in a nursing home due to a brain injury.

But in the past few years, David Jr. moved home and was under the care of his father and stepmother ever since, Oliver said.

The couple told investigators that David Jr.'s condition worsened about one year ago. Prior to that, they said he was cognizant and lived a relatively normal life, Oliver said.

Deputies have not yet verified that information though, as they are still awaiting interviews with other family members.

Arthurs arrested when arrived for questioning

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter authorized the couple's charges in light of autopsy results, and the pair was arrested Wednesday afternoon.

They went to the sheriff's office because they knew they were wanted for questioning, but when they arrived, were instead served with their charges, Oliver said.

Nonetheless, investigators interviewed David Sr. and Deborah following their arrest. 

A Friday funeral is planned for David Jr., but it remains unclear if the Arthurs will attend.

"In order for them to attend the funeral, the judge would have to order us to take them (there). We will wait for further order of the court," Sigsworth said.

In the meantime, the couple is awaiting their Friday morning arraignment in Erie County Municipal Court.

Both are now being held at the Erie County jail without bond. 

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