MANSFIELD - A 44-year-old woman accused by Mansfield police of starving her mother to death "lied from the beginning," Mansfield police Det. Sgt. Matt Loughman said during a preliminary hearing in Mansfield Municipal Court on Thursday.
"She also made the comment she fed her mom Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and that she feeds her that basically every day, but on the information I have her mother was starving to death. She was not eating Salisbury steak," Loughman told the court.
Details of the case surrounding Jennifer K. Sweat, 44, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree, in the death of her mother, Linda Sweat, 77, 387 Second St., were spelled out during a preliminary hearing in Judge Jerry Ault's courtroom.
Jennifer Sweat's bond was ordered continued at $500,000 cash bond. She also is charged with one count of failing to provide for a functionally impaired person, a felony of the fourth degree.
By the end of the preliminary hearing, Jennifer K. Sweat's case was bound over to a Richland County grand jury by Ault. She sat next to her attorney Bernie Davis in a blue-gray jail jumpsuit, expressionless.
Lt. Rob Skropits, head of the Mansfield Police Department Major Crimes Unit, earlier said officers were called to an address in the 300 block of Second Avenue for a deceased person. According to a police report, police were called to the residence at 3:17 p.m. Oct. 23. Patrol officers called for a major crimes detective and the Richland County coroner, once they saw the victim inside an upstairs bedroom, deceased. She looked to be very emaciated, according to Skropits.
The Richland County Coroner’s Office took the victim's body to the Montgomery County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. A preliminary report from that office indicated issues of neglect, Skropits earlier said.
Under oath, Loughman told Richland County First Assistant Prosecutor Brandon Pigg that he saw "a skeleton covered in skin" when he removed the covers from the deceased woman in her bed.
Jennifer Sweat was the victim's primary caregiver and had power of attorney for her late mother for the last four years, Loughman said.
Pigg asked Loughman about his conversations with Jennifer Sweat.
Loughman said Jennifer Sweat said she was the primary caregiver of her mother except when she was at work, then her 16-year-old son took care of her.
Loughman spoke to the daughter of the victim at the house and later when she and her son came to the Mansfield Police Department.
Jennifer Sweat said she used her mother's monthly retirement check of $1,900 and her mother's monthly Social Security check of $1,000 to pay her mother's bills. In talking about the financial situation, Loughman said Jennifer Sweat only came up with bills that totaled $1,000 a month for the victim, including frozen dinners for her mom. Her mother banked at PNC in Ashland and Jennifer Sweat had access to the $2,900 a month to spend freely, he said.
Loughman said Jennifer Sweat said she called 911 immediately. Then Loughman talked to her son, who said she waited more than an hour to call 911.
Pigg asked Loughman if Jennifer Sweat gave him any indication why she waited that long.
"Basically she knew she was in trouble when we found the victim," Loughman said.
In another conversation with the suspect, Loughman asked Jennifer Sweat how long her mother was confined to her bed.
Jennifer Sweat said one to two months. Her son told Loughman it was more like 9 months and then his mother said the teen was right.
She told the detective she last checked on her mother that morning, then later told the detective she had checked on her mother the night before, Loughman said.
Pigg asked if Jennifer Sweat ever asked anyone at her place of employment about her mother's health. Jennifer Sweat is employed at Liberty Nursing Home on Lexington Avenue.
Jennifer Sweat told Loughman that someone at the nursing home told her to get her mother to a doctor and give her Ensure, a nutritional drink.
"One conversation was, when we were talking about the money, I made the comment to her is that the reason you didn't get your mom medical care because you know how expensive nursing homes are because you work there?" Loughman said in court.
Loughman said Jennifer Sweat said that was part of the reason.
Jennifer Sweat never got her mother medical care, but later told Loughman she wished she had done so. She did give her mother the Ensure.
According to the Montogomery County Medical Examiner's report of Linda Sweat, preliminary findings indicate pulmonary edema and congestion, necrosis of bladder and right renal pelvis. The report also indicated reported history of incapacitation: global emaciation, multiple ulcerations over bony prominences of hips and buttocks, fecal impaction and kyphosis of thoracic spine.
Deputy Coroner Elizabeth L. McKinnon, M.D., pathologist at Montgomery County, said in the report that no significant trauma was identified.
“This was a horrific scene that the officers and coroner’s office personnel were subjected to," Skropits said earlier, "a terrible loss of life to one of our citizens in the Mansfield community."
Jennifer Sweat faces up to 11 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine in found guilty on the involuntary manslaughter charge; she also faces up to 1½ years and a $5,000 fine on the charge of failing to provide for a functionally impaired person.
Thursday, Pigg said charges could be increased to murder.
Jennifer Sweat remains in the Richland County Jail.