Sheffield Lake woman accused in 85-year-old stepfather’s death

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:12 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Sheffield Lake woman is accused in her stepfather’s death.

Police say the two lived together, and it turns out, it’s what she didn’t do that has her in trouble.

Officers say they found 85-year-old William Brown in his bed, barely breathing in his Lorain County apartment last fall.

Brown’s neighbor is the one who initially notified officials of his condition.

She called 911 and said, “I have a neighbor here, he’s laying in his bed. He’s really not responding to anything. The person that takes care of him has been saying he’s gasping like a fish out of water.”

Police say the caretaker was Brown’s stepdaughter, Bernice Blankenship.

She told police after her mother died years ago, and she continued to live with her stepfather at the apartment off Hawthorne Road.

The neighbor told dispatchers, “They are both just not really in their right minds. So, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that he desperately needs some help.”

According to a police report, Brown died just a few days after the 911 call.

Now, more than nine months later, Blankenship is criminally charged in Brown’s death.

In the incident report, police wrote she “was the approximate cause of death to William Brown.”

The Lorain County coroner ruled Brown died of sepsis and dehydration due to a urinary tract infection.

Blankenship told police she tried to get him to eat, but he refused.

According to the police report, the neighbor who called 911 says she told Blankenship to get her stepfather medical attention several times, but Blankenship refused to take him to the hospital.

Police say they observed bottles of liquor throughout the apartment, a full sink of dirty dishes with others piled up in the kitchen and several soiled adult diapers on the bathroom floor.

While Brown’s case is certainly one of the most serious of the alleged elderly abuse cases, elder abuse happens more often than you might think.

According to the U.S. Justice Department more than 10% of adults age 60 or older experience elder abuse every year.

In 2014, the Ohio Attorney General launched an Elder Justice Unit to increase the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases and to improve positive outcomes for older Ohioans. The Unit is a collaborative effort among the Crime Victim Services, Consumer Protection, Health Care Fraud, and Special Prosecutions sections, and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The team helps local communities with investigations, forensic analysis, case presentation and prosecution, outreach, trainings and technical assistance.

The goal of the Elder Justice Unit is to connect victims and those with concerns relating to suspected elder abuse and/or crimes with local and state agencies that may be able to provide resources or guidance to the victims and their families or take steps to prevent future acts of abuse.

For more information on the Elder Justice Unit, or to get support for a victim of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, call 800-282-0515.