Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Public safety

Gulfport police: 66-year-old woman left to die in squalor and heat

GULFPORT — Kathryn Ashe, 66 and in ill health, sat alone in her wheelchair in a trashed, roach-infested house with no air conditioning for more than a week before she died, Gulfport police said.

Some eight to 10 days before she was found dead on Friday, according to police, the caretakers moved out of the house, tired of living in squalor and heat. But they didn't take the "frail" woman with them, a police report said, leaving her with "little ability to care for herself."

Caretakers Jennifer Susan Poulos, 41, and Debra Germaine Poulos, 61, kept stopping by, police said, but never got her any help.

They were arrested on Saturday. Both now sit in the Pinellas County jail, each facing a felony charge of abuse or neglect of an aged or disabled person.

Police on Tuesday filed a charge of child neglect against Jennifer Poulos. They said her 4-year-old child, who was not identified, was also exposed to "living conditions that could be considered uninhabitable" in the house.

Gulfport police also identified the 66-year-old victim, and revealed new details about the caretakers' actions before the woman died.

Ashe lived with the caretakers and the boy for at least eight months, police said.

After Jennifer and Debra Poulos moved out, they went back to the house every day, said Gulfport police spokesman Thomas Woodman, and saw that Ashe's medical condition was worsening.

"There were times when they could have (sought) medical assistance," he said.

But they never did, police said.

Woodman also said they never called the landlord to fix the broken air conditioning or get rid of the cockroaches.

Dirty laundry still blanketed the front porch of the house at 5320 29th Ave. S on Tuesday. The home was divided into four units, and Ashe and her caretakers lived in the eastern-most unit.

A broken lamp, an unplugged fan and a faded couch were strewn across the property. Broken chairs, clothes and trash covered the floor of a room visible through a window.

The home was uninhabitable and "extremely cluttered," police said. It was so bad inside that one could not walk from room to room.

Neighbors said they didn't interact with the family much but saw the caretakers and the boy from time to time. One neighbor often saw Ashe sitting in her wheelchair on the front porch.

Gina Forgetta, 63, who lived next door, said she thought something was wrong ever since the caretakers moved in last year. "Trash all over the place," she said. "You get the feeling that they didn't care."

Cathy Scraplen, 67, who lived two doors down, said she met the caretakers but never talked to them. "It's horrible. It's absolutely horrible," she said. "I'm a nurse — maybe I could have done something if I had known."

Forgetta said she regularly saw the caretakers "throwing trash and missing the Dumpster." She never saw the boy play outside.

Jennifer Poulos was "at times emotional" in interviews with police, Woodson said, but Debra Poulos showed no remorse or concern over Ashe's death.

Debra Poulos was being held in the county jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, Jennifer Poulos in lieu of $15,000 bail.

Contact Langston Taylor at [email protected] Follow @langstonitaylor.

   
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