JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Two people accused in the death of a mentally disabled man in Callaway County pleaded guilty Friday in federal court.
Sherry K. Paulo, 54, and Anthony R. Flores, 59, pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care to Carl DeBrodie, resulting in injury or death, according to a release from the U.S. Justice Department. Paulo also pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud in connection with actions taken to cover up DeBrodie's death.
"They may have thought they could hide the body in a concrete-filled crate and get away with it," said Tim Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. "But when the civil rights of a vulnerable victim are violated, we will hold them accountable for their inhumane and criminal conduct.”
The two were among five charged in DeBrodie's death. DeBrodie's body was found in a Fulton storage shed in April 2017, about a week after he was reported missing. Two of those charged, Shaina Osborne and Anthony R.K. Flores, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in February.
Another woman, Mary Paulo, is charged with a misdemeanor of making a false report in a missing person case.
State charges are still pending against Sherry Paulo and Anthony R. Flores in Callaway County.
Sherry Paulo and Anthony R. Flores worked as caregivers at the Second Chance Homes, which provided housing and care for developmentally disabled people. They admitted that they saw DeBrodie's health decline starting in 2014 and he later suffered "an acute medical emergency" after being taken to Sherry Paulo and Anthony R. Flores' home, according to the Department of Justice release.
The two decided not to seek medical care for DeBrodie and he died, authorities said. Sherry Paulo admitted to putting DeBrodie's body in a trash can before it was put in a wooden crate and encased with cement. The body was then taken to a storage unit, the Justice Department said.
ABC 17 News crews spoke with Mary Martin who cared for DeBrodie for several years. She said Flores and Paulo are not the only ones responsible for DeBrodie's death.
"It's unreal that not one person said anything, even noticed. Not one person in all those people that were involved in his life even noticed or cared," she said.
Sherry Paulo also admitted in the plea that she submitted claims for DeBrodie's care after his death between September 2016 and April 2017, with Medicaid paying about $107,000 for those claims. She also admitted to reporting DeBrodie missing on April 17, 2017, despite knowing that he was dead.
Sherry Paulo faces a maximum penalty of more than 17 years in prison and Flores could be imprisoned for more than 15 years on the federal charges. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Martin said she thinks Flores and Paulo deserve more significant charges.
"But to me, that, any time that we are responsible for a human being and we do not call meds or an ambulance, we are committing murder. We are letting them die," she said.
DeBrodie's mother, Carolyn Summers, settled a wrongful death suit against government agencies and people who cared for DeBrodie last December.
Rudy Veit represented Sumers. He said the update in the case can help DeBrodie's family begin the healing process.
"Closure just doesn't really happen until most of the things are wrapped up. And they're not wrapped up yet, but it's a relief that they see an end in sight and to see that the prosecuting attorney and the U.S. attorney respected their wishes, and also what Carl meant to them," Veit said.
He also said DeBrodie's death can serve as a lesson for healthcare providers everywhere.
"This will send a message to all caretakers that they have to respect their patients, respect their clients, and obey the law," he said.
Melissa DeLap, a nurse who had worked at Second Chance Homes, pleaded guilty to health care fraud in August 2018 for filing false reports that she had evaluated DeBrodie after he went missing in September 2016. She also surrendered her nursing license.
Anthony R. Flores and Sherry Paulo are charged in Callaway County with abuse or neglect of a patient in a mental health facility, first-degree involuntary manslaughter, abandoning a corpse and two counts of making a false report. Flores had been scheduled for a Monday hearing in his case but that likely will be moved, Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson said. Paulo has a hearing set for next month.
Wilson said in a news release that ethical rules prohibit him from commenting on the facts of the cases until they're wrapped up.