A high school photo of Lacey Ellen Fletcher, 36, taken when she was 16. The coroner believes she was left on the couch for 12 years
A Louisiana couple indicted on second-degree murder charges in the death of their severely autistic daughter who was discovered ‘fused’ to a sofa by her own excrement insisted that she never wanted to leave the couch.
Clay, 65, and Sheila Fletcher, 64, were arrested on Monday and indicted by a grand jury on second-degree murder charges in the death of Lacey Fletcher, 36, whose emaciated body partly submerged in a hole in a couch at their home in January.
Speaking to law enforcement, the Fletchers allegedly insisted that it was Lacey who made the decision to remain on the couch for 12 years, DailyMail.com revealed.
They told investigators that their daughter, who had developed ‘some degree of Asperger’s syndrome of 9th grade when she started being home schooled,’ would use the couch or a nearby towel as her bathroom.
Coroner Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III, with the East Feliciana Parish Coroner’s Office, said, that based on evidence, it looked as if Lacey had been on that couch for almost 12 years.
Bickham also told WAFB that medical records show that Lacey Fletcher did not have a primary care physician.
‘In 2010, the parents went to the doctor’s office without Lacey and asked his advice on what to do,’ Bickham said. ‘She is increasingly not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to leave the sofa, just totally recluse.’
Bickham said the doctor told her parents to bring their daughter to the hospital, yet she was never admitted and no treatment was provided.
‘If you have anyone in your family, the message is if you have anyone in your family with a mental health condition or a disability, get help,’ Bickham added.
Sheila Fletcher, 64, (pictured) and Clay Fletcher, 65, were arrested Monday and indicted on second-degree murder charges for the death of their daughter, Lacey, 36.
A photo of the two-story home located on Tom Drive in Slaughter, Louisiana where Lacey lived with her parents
In the horrific scene discovered on January 3, Lacey’s emaciated body was found partially naked, sitting upright and partly submerged in a hole in a couch covered from head to toe in urine, liquid feces, maggots and insect bites at her parents’ otherwise neat single family home in Slaughter, Louisiana.
‘Opened the door, walked into the house, there was a stench, an odor, feces, fecal material, urine, you couldn’t hold your breath,’ Bickham said, WAFB reported.
Her feet were crossed underneath her on the couch deep inside the hole that her long-suffering body had worn through both the upholstery and cushion.
Lacey had fecal matter shoved on her face, chest and abdomen. Her hair was matted, knotted and filled with maggots – and she weighed less than 100lbs.
‘I have been a sheriff for six years, and I have had a lot of things happen here in East Feliciana Parish, but this type of scene, this is by far the worst,’ Sheriff Jeffery Travis said.
The Fletchers were arrested Monday and then indicted on second-degree murder charges. A trial date has not yet been set.
Bickham told DailyMail.com Monday that the images of the conditions Lacey was found in were so horrific and upsetting that medics would be on standby for the members of the jury.
He added that the photos of the scene left those in the room speechless.
‘The father was completely emotionless, the mother’s head was lying down on, between her legs, she was weeping a little bit,’ he added.
‘When I was presenting the case and showed the pictures and gave the timeline the expressions of the grand jury was utter shock,’ he said. ‘Like the clock on the wall never moved again.’
‘There was complete silence. Some jurors were gasping in horror. Some were staring in disbelief.’
Bickham also told the DailyMail.com that the case has been really hard on him personally and described Monday’s grand jury proceedings as ‘long emotional day.’
‘Seeing those photos again and reliving this traumatic experience again was really hard.’
Clay Fletcher, 65, and Shiela Fletcher, 64, were indicted on second-degree murder charges for their daughter Lacey Ellen Fletcher’s death
Outside the court, District Attorney D’Aquilla said: ‘I believe justice was served here today. Lacey Fletcher didn’t deserve the way she was treated.
‘For this type of crime… second degree is the highest charge that could have been produced today.’
‘Evidence wise, a minimum of 12 years,’ he said. ‘Could be before that. At least 12 years. A terribly long period of time.’
The coroner also revealed the full horrific cause of death.
He said: ‘The cause of death stemmed from severe medical neglect, which led to chronic malnutrition, acute starvation, immobility, acute ulcer formation, osteomyelitis which is bone infection which led finally to sepsis.’
Dr Bickham also cleared up a misunderstanding about Lacey’s actual condition, originally reported as ‘Locked-In’ Syndrome.
He said: ‘I don’t know where that term came from or what source it came from. In all my years as a practicing physician I have never heard of that term.
‘The only diagnoses that I know she did have was first, social anxiety, severe autism and that’s it. Those are her only two diagnoses.
‘The last time she saw a physician of any type or any kind was when she was 16 years old. That picture of her was when she was 16.’
DA D’Aquilla agreed Lacey’s death was a ‘crime against humanity’ and added: ‘I hope this indictment brings some spotlight to victims of this type of crime.
‘The coroner has a lot of authority, a lot of power. If people don’t want to get treatment or they refuse treatment, go to the coroner’s office, go to law enforcement, check on your neighbors, check on your friends. If you are a care giver, reach out and make sure people are taken care of.
‘This case was so horrific that the coroner and the sheriff’s office initially investigated this case in January and the conditions that she was found it was just unbelievable.
‘You don’t treat anybody of any animals like that. Something had to be done and we all got together, we all stood on the same platform and we are all here now and we have an indictment for second degree murder.’
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE
Sheila Fletcher resigned from position on the town board three weeks after daughter’s death
Clay Fletcher, shown with Sheila in undated photo, is an officer of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission ‘to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War’
The Fletchers, considered outwardly respectable and pillars of their community, were not at the courthouse and have not been seen since news broke last week of the horror. They were not immediately arrested because they were not considered flight risks.
DailyMail.com understands Sheila Fletcher rang 911 at 2am on January 3 to report her daughter had stopped breathing. The sheriff’s office sent a deputy to the ranch-style home 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.
But after confronting the horror, the deputy reported back and East Feliciana Parish Coroner Dr Ewell Dewitt Bickham III immediately came out.
He said: ‘The scene was sickening. I’ve seen some horrible things in my life but nothing like this.’ He said bedsores went all the way down to her bone.
A photo showing a close-up of the leather couch Lacey was fused to. The coroner estimates that Lacey was sitting in that hole in the couch for the last 12 years
Horrific photos issued by Dr Bickham’s office revealed the feces smeared hole in the sofa where Bickham believes Lacey might have been sitting for the past 12 years.
The Fletchers were meant to be her caregivers. ‘It’s unconscionable, something you make horror movies about,’ said Bickham.
The moment he arrived at the home he was hit by a stench so bad ‘it would almost make you run out of the house.’ He said he knew immediately it was a potential crime scene.
‘The parents were in the kitchen. They did not have an explanation,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t eat for a week and I cried for a week.’
He ruled her death a homicide with the cause as medical neglect – believing she passed 24 to 48 hours before his official time of death of 3.07am, January 3.
The tragedy is even more of a mystery as Sheila Fletcher worked for authorities who might have helped her daughter.
She was a police and court clerk in the small nearby city of Baker and more recently an assistant to the city prosecutor in Zachary, a slighter larger community also nearby.
The mom was also on Slaughter’s Board of Alderman but quit on January 24 following four years’ service and three weeks after the horror discovery.
Clay Fletcher is an officer of non-profit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission ‘to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War’.
The couple’s lawyer Steven Moore has said in a statement: ‘They don’t want to relive the pain of losing a child through the media.
‘They have been through a lot of heartache over the years. Anyone who had lost a child knows what it’s like.’
Before the grand jury hearing, the coroner said he would present the case with the hope of the parents being charged over the death. ‘I probably won’t even have to open my mouth, the pictures will show it,’ he said.
District Attorney D’Aquilla has said: ‘On a murder, you have to have intent. Did they want to kill her? I want to say yeah, they wanted to kill her.’
‘Negligent homicide is zero to five years, manslaughter is zero to 40 years and second-degree is life in prison. I will ask for second degree because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
‘We don’t treat animals or neglect animals in that way. If you have an animal in that condition you have to take them to a vet.
‘If you are not capable of providing the care then get help. We want people to know that if you are a caregiver of someone you need to pay attention. It is important for neighbors and the community to look out for each other. We hope this never happens again.’
He said the Fletchers claimed in 2011-2012 that Lacey didn’t want to leave the house and had not been to a doctor. He said the parents claimed she was able to communicate with them and apparently never complained.
D’Aquilla added it was not known when Lacey had last moved from the couch.
The Fletchers reportedly said Lacey developed ‘some degree of Asperger’s syndrome’ after 9th grade when she started being home schooled.
They insisted during an interview with law enforcement that she was the one who chose never to leave the couch and to relieve herself there or on a nearby towel, it is reported. Sheila Fletcher said she routinely cleaned her daughter’s sores.
‘Mom and Dad love you so much,’ she wrote in a Facebook post after the death.
News of the January horror is breaking now as the autopsy report was not handed to East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office until March. At that point Sheriff Travis consulted with District Attorney D’Aquilla on a course of action that resulted in grand jury deliberation and indictment decision.
‘I hope this indictment brings some spotlight to victims of this type of crime,’ D’Aquilla added.
Sheila and Clay Fletcher will be booked into the East Feliciana Prison, WAFB reported.