Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet granted a $50,000 bond to Deborah Yvonne Hill, 48, and a $25,000 bond for her daughter, Brittany Michelle Hurst, 19.
Both had pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and cruelty to persons 65 years and older at an arraignment hearing Friday.
They are charged in the death of 85-year-old Blanche Aline Carpenter, a life partner of Hill’s grandmother. Hill and Hurst were acting as Carpenter’s caregivers at their Locks Hill home when they reported her death to police Aug. 25.
Hill’s attorney, Jacque Hawk, said that before the family’s Aug. 9 move from Albany, Ga., Carpenter was in hospice care for several illnesses and was not ambulatory because of painful hip replacements. Hill took over caring for the women. She was also taking care of her disabled husband, Hawk said.
“Neither one (Carpenter or Hill’s grandmother) wanted to go to a nursing home and neither one of them wanted to die in a nursing home,” Hawk said at the hearing. “She (Carpenter) was in such bad shape, she couldn’t do much.”
According to authorities, Carpenter had been dead about two days. An autopsy revealed she died from medical complications of neglect.
Both women initially claimed Carpenter had been responsive earlier in the day in the bedroom she shared with Hill’s grandmother. Hurst later told authorities she knew of Carpenter’s demise, and she was covered with a plastic sheet that sheriff’s deputies found in a garbage can, according to investigators.
Hill also faces three counts of cruelty to children and two counts of misdemeanor failure to educate. Authorities say her children, then ages 16, 11, and 9, lived in unsanitary conditions and that two had not been sent to school.
Authorities described the two younger children as “functionally illiterate” and the youngest had likely never been to school.
“The kids were being home-schooled,” Hawk said. “Maybe (Hill) wasn’t doing a good job, but she was trying.”
The oldest child is with his father. The two others are in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services.
Hill’s grandmother and husband, who is under the supervision of Adult Protective Services, are in assisted living facilities.