A couple accused of neglecting disabled and elderly adults in a number of unlicensed personal care homes and one licensed home were granted bond Friday.
Margaret Freeman, 60, and Paul D. Livingston, 61, were arrested as a result of an investigation by the newly formed personal care home task force, C.A.V.E. which found numerous vulnerable adults, at least one of whom is a veteran disabled because of a gunshot wound to his head, stashed in various hotels and houses without food, money or prescribed medication.
At a bond hearing in Richmond County Superior Court, District Attorney Natalie Paine said the investigation began in mid-September when a relative of a resident of Joshua House 3 on Milledgeville Road, Freeman’s licensed personal care home, called in a complaint.
On Sept. 26, the Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly members found six elderly and disabled residents under the sole care of a woman who is mentally disabled, Paine said. Freeman and Livingston arrived at the home with a vehicle loaded with people but quickly left when they saw investigators, Paine said. That set off a game of cat and mouse as vulnerable adults were being moved from home to home and to hotels, Paine said.
Freeman was running unlicensed homes on Sibley Street, Juniper Drive, Wrightsboro Road, DuPont Street and Church Street, Paine said. C.A.V.E. members were able to find six vulnerable adults stashed in the Red Roof Inn where they had been left for more than 12 hours, she said.
One was found sitting in a urine soaked chair. More were found at the Budget Inn on the Gordon Highway when the manager became concerned over their well-being when they had been left alone without food from 3:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., Paine said. The manager called again around midnight when Livingston returned to drop off another vulnerable adult, she said. Two others were found at a Wrightsboro Road home, and two more were found on DuPont Street, she said.
The patients who were able to communicate told C.A.V.E. members that Freeman controlled their benefit funds and debit cards, Paine said. She worried that if released on bond, Freeman, who instructed the residents to call her Apostle Freeman, would intimidate them. Residents who remain at one home refused to speak to C.A.V.E. members because they were instructed not to, Paine said.
But defense attorneys Charles Rollins and Jason Hasty countered that Freeman and Livingston were good candidates for bond. They had no criminal history, both were devoted church members, and Freeman even turned herself in when she learned there was a warrant for her arrest.
The prosecution had misconstrued what was happening in late September, Rollins said. There were serious plumbing problems at the licensed personal care home on Milledgeville Road and Freeman and Livingston were trying to find other places for the residents to live while repairs were being made, Rollins said.
The woman Paine described as mentally challenged is a licensed nursing assistant, and the residents at the other homes were capable of taking care of themselves, Rollins said. If the other homes were found to be unlicensed personal care homes, that is only a misdemeanor offense, he said.
Pickett agreed to set bond, over the prosecutor’s objections. He set a $90,000 bond for Freeman and a $45,000 bond for Livingston. Conditions of bond include a 7 p.m. curfew, no contact with any former resident or employee, stay out of the personal care home or boarding home business, and give up any control of anyone’s finances.
Reach Sandy Hodson at email@example.com or (706) 823-3226