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Family faces manslaughter in neglect of Hillsborough woman

Published Jun. 27, 2013

TAMPA — Mary Winston's rheumatoid arthritis was so bad that she couldn't move. For three years, she depended on her family for care.

They put bandages on her bedsores. A neighbor saw them take adult diapers to the curb. But it wasn't enough.

Eight months after Winston died in October, authorities have charged the 65-year-old woman's husband and three adult children with aggravated manslaughter of an elderly or disabled person, a first-degree felony.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Winston's family let her suffer from infected bedsores that were so extensive they exposed her rib cage and fused her legs together.

When detectives saw her on Oct. 25, just hours after she died, the bedsores were filled with maggots.

A sore on her back — about the size of a hand — exposed a rib, which was brown and dry from exposure, deputies said.

The sores on her leg were so raw that when new scar tissue grew, it fused her immobile limbs together.

When deputies arrived, they found bandages stuck in her wounds and a blanket adhered to her back. An autopsy showed she died from infection. After investigating, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office classified it as "homicide (neglect of caregivers)."

Winston's husband, Osmond Montgomery Winston, 67, knew about his wife's bedsores, according to an arrest affidavit. He admitted his wife should have been getting professional medical care.

So why didn't she?

Mrs. Winston's family members told deputies that she was a nurse, and she had been giving them instructions on how to care for her, according to the Sheriff's Office. However, they realized their care was not sufficient but by then were too scared to contact authorities, according to the Sheriff's Office.

A neighbor, Judy Boatwright, 70, said the family seemed kind and well-meaning. Mrs. Winston's daughter, 39-year-old Belinda Winston, spoke about her ailing mother to Boatwright, though the neighbor never went inside to see her.

Mrs. Winston was from the Caribbean and Boatwright said she heard Mrs. Winston did not receive any U.S. Social Security income. Perhaps the family did not seek medical care because they did not have health insurance and thought they could not afford it, Boatwright said.

"It's a sad thing to hear about because if she had asked for help, we certainly would have been able to," Boatwright said.

Authorities arrested Osmond and Belinda Winston, as well as daughter Hyacinth Winston, 43, on Wednesday. They issued an arrest warrant for son Osmond Ignatius Winston, 45, whom deputies believe may be out of the state. The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has charged all four with manslaughter counts, authorities said.

The three arrested were booked into the Hillsborough County Jail and held without bail.

The Winston family members do not have previous arrests in Florida, records show. The elder Osmond Winston has owned his house — near Henderson Road and Linebaugh Avenue, northwest of Tampa — since 1988.

Bedsores are common in people stuck in bed, said Cindy Munro, a professor and associate dean at the University of South Florida's College of Nursing. The sores technically are ulcers, caused mainly by pressure to an area, which as a result does not get adequate blood flow.

Some of Winston's were the worst: stage four. Those go down to muscle or bone, Munro said.

And while it's not uncommon for bedsores to become infected, Munro paused when learning about the maggots on Mrs. Winston and her fused limbs.

"That's not common," she said. "I'd rather not comment on that."

For patients who suffer stage four bedsores, prompt medical attention is key, she said. Physicians and nurses who specialize in wound care can help clean the area and remove dead tissue.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

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