Richmond County's animal control director was fired for treating dogs less cruelly than the ailing elderly were treated at the Ranson family's residential care home in Aiken.
The conditions in which the elderly were found, following a major investigation by state and local agencies, appalled even the most hardened law-enforcement officers.
"It is more than saddening, it is sickening," said Aiken County Sheriff Howard Sellers. He added he'd never seen anything worse than the conditions in which 13 of the Ranson clients lived.
They weren't even found at the main home-care facility at 1043 Brookhaven Drive, but in a nearly inaccessible feces-ridden shack a quarter a mile away that also reeked of urine. The elderly women, suffering from Alzheimer's disease or similarly debilitating illnesses, were wearing diapers and sleeping on air mattresses.
Clearly these were not clients that Clifford Ranson, 59, Alice Ranson, 53, or Jared Ranson, 34, ever intended anyone to see.
Their care home was licensed for only eight people. According to authorities the trio kept the other patients in the shack in order to collect their Social Security checks, ostensibly to pay for their care.
But as noted before, abused dogs got better care than those sick elderly did. What went on in that facility is atrocious. It is now shut down and the Ransons face a host of criminal charges centering on neglect of patients in their charge.
Let's hope this ugly case does not end in a plea bargain. The Ransons, if guilty, should have the book thrown at them. Conditions in prison are a hundred times better than the conditions in which the Ransons' patients were found.
It is also distressing that the authorities took so long to put this awful care home out of business. It had been suspected of wrongdoing for years before the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, along with local law-enforcers, busted the operation - thanks to a complaint filed by a patient's family members who suspected something was wrong.
Why didn't the authorities know about this sooner? That question will be investigated for months to come, but for now it looks like the Department of Social Services fell down on the job. It should have known what was going on out there and notified the police.
Even DSS spokesman Jerry Adams admitted "we screwed up." It wasn't too many years ago that the DSS was in hot water for improper oversight of children, some of whom were abused or killed. Now it's the elderly who are suffering abuse. Is it time for another DSS shake-up?