Harlem woman charged with hiding mom's death staying in jail

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 6:38 PM
Last updated 10:10 PM
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The case against a Harlem woman charged in April with concealing her elderly mother’s death will move to Superior Court.

Denise Marie Chinnery: Woman is charged with concealing her mom's death.  SPECIAL
Denise Marie Chinnery: Woman is charged with concealing her mom's death.

At a Tuesday preliminary hearing, Columbia County Magistrate Judge Grady Blanchard ruled there was sufficient evidence against Denise Marie Chinnery, 46, to proceed with prosecution. Chinnery was arrested April 28 at her home on Mahala Lane and charged with concealing the death of another and cruelty to a person 65 or older.

Authorities arrived at Chinnery’s house that Sunday in response to a call from Chinnery’s sister about a welfare check for Catherine Simmons, 79, said Columbia County sheriff’s Investigator Teresa Lamb. Upon arrival, the sister told deputies that Chinnery was inside with their mother’s deceased body and refused to let her in. The sister and others said they could smell a strong odor coming from the mobile home.

“Her body had started to decompose,” Lamb said. After pulling Chinnery out from behind the barricaded door, Lamb said, deputies and family members found Simmons’ decaying body sitting in a metal-frame chair.

Chinnery did not report her mother’s death to authorities but she had told others.

Lisa Williams, a case worker, met Chinnery outside the home April 19. Chinnery told Williams that her mother had died but refused to let Williams inside.

On April 25, Chinnery sent a text message to her manager at Cracker Barrel explaining that her mother had died.

Pictures of the mobile home show countertops covered in trash, empty food containers and vodka bottles, a bug-ridden refrigerator, animal feces in cabinets and a mouse skeleton on the floor. The home was condemned.

Lamb said complaints were made to Caring Hands United, an in-home health care provider, by all of the aides who cared for Simmons.

The last aide who visited the home on March 3 confirmed the house’s condition. She said there was nothing edible in the house. She returned on March 4 with TV dinners and adult diapers, however paperwork for Medicaid assistance was not filed by the family and services ceased that day.

There were also complaints were about Simmons’ physical condition.

She was unable to move around, use the bathroom independently or bathe herself, and she appeared to be losing a significant amount of weight.

Adult Protective Services and the Division of Family and Children Services were both contacted about Simmons before her death but were unable to reach Chinnery.

Lamb said Simmons was receiving Social Security checks, but to her knowledge none were cashed after her death.

Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins estimated Simmons had been dead at least a week. The cause of death is still undetermined with autopsy reports pending.

Chinnery’s bail was set at $15,200. The judge said the bond was appropriate based on the charges and the issue of flight risk.

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corgimom 06/25/13 - 07:43 pm
This is beyond horrible. I

This is beyond horrible.

I cannot express enough sympathy for that poor woman's family, for the horrific nightmare that they have had to endure.

juantez 06/25/13 - 09:53 pm


belle 06/26/13 - 07:39 am
Caregivers suffer too..

While I am not defending this woman's actions, I hope you all recognize that this woman was under immense stress as a caregiver. She apparently cracked from the stress. Whenever you see a caregiver with these signs, please offer help. Just sitting with the person in need and giving the caregiver a few hours away from home can help immensely. We had the exact situation occur and help was offered repeatedly but it was adamantly refused. We ended up removing the handicapped/ill person from the home and none too soon. The doctor said 24-48 hours more and they would have been dead. Caregivers, when help of any kind is offered....take it. You need it and you deserve it. If it is offered and you refuse, you alone are morally and legally responsible for what happens to the patient.

itsanotherday1 06/26/13 - 09:30 am
I don't quite get the

I don't quite get the incarceration. This woman is obviously disturbed and needs psychological support. It is clear from the article that she wasn't concealing the death to scam SS, and that the living conditions point to some deep rooted issues.

belle 06/26/13 - 10:57 am

I agree. To a point. It is one thing to be so mentally disturbed that we stop caring for ourselves and lose the ability to care for others. It is another when we knowlingly (mentally ill or not) allow another being to suffer.

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