Marlo Kenneth Yarbrough, 41, was arrested Saturday morning after police discovered four mentally ill adults alone in an unheated, sparsely furnished house in Winder, a town west of Athens.
Yarbrough, his wife, Narquitta Streete, and his sister-in-law were being paid to care for the four adults in a pair of unlicensed personal care homes.
When code enforcement officers threatened to shut down the care homes, Yarbrough dropped off the four adults — ages 32, 19, 57 and 26 — at the empty house with a bag of fast food.
They were discovered late Friday night when one of the disabled people called his stepfather to complain that they had no food, no medicine and no heat.
“We walked through the house and observed that they were using the oven to heat the house,” Deputy Vince Henderson wrote in his report. “Minimal household items were present, and it was obvious these individuals required assistance with normal life activities. (They) appeared extremely anxious and confused by the situation.”
Yarbrough has been charged with four counts of reckless conduct for leaving the four adults in the house and with four counts of neglect and exploitation of a disabled adult. None of the adults was injured; two were picked up by family members and two others were sent to stay at another personal care home.
“The four subjects appeared to be much more at ease after learning they would not longer be under the care of Marlo and Narquitta,” Henderson wrote in his report.
The Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, the Winder Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are continuing to investigate and more charges could be filed, said Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith.
Neither Yarbrough’s wife or sister-in-law have been charged with a crime.
The four people in Yarbrough’s care were recently transferred to his unlicensed personal care home from mental health treatment centers, Smith said.
Barrow County code enforcement officers have been investigating the unlicensed personal care homes for the past several weeks, Smith said.
Yarbrough and his wife allegedly were running a barber shop and a personal care home out of their house. They claimed they didn’t know they needed a business license or a state permit to run the personal care home, Smith said.
They were accepting $600 to $1,000 a month from families to house their loved ones and taking other residents’ Social Security benefits without providing proper care to their charges, Smith said.
There’s been a proliferation of personal care homes in Barrow County over the last year, some of them licensed and some of them unlicensed, Smith said.
Smith’s deputies and Barrow County code enforcement learned about Yarbrough’s facilities after neighbors complained about the illegal business.
“They’ve flown under the radar,” Smith said. “But now that local law enforcement knows about it, we are doing everything in our power to defend these people who have not been able to defend themselves.”