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Commonwealth v. Cruz

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

September 4, 2015

Commonwealth
v.
Filip M. Cruz

Argued, February 27, 2015

[As modified on September 25, 2015.]

Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on August 18, 2011.

The cases were tried before D. Lloyd Macdonald, J.

Joseph J. Czerwonka for the defendant.

Owen J. Murphy, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

Present: Vuono, Milkey, & Blake, JJ.

OPINION

[37 N.E.3d 628] Vuono, J.

The defendant's mother, Olivia Cruz, was ninety-one years old when she died of sepsis caused by an infection from wounds that developed on her buttocks as a result of sitting in her feces and urine over a period of several weeks. The defendant was Olivia's[1] caretaker. A Bristol County grand jury returned two indictments charging the defendant with offenses that, as alleged

Page 207

by the Commonwealth, resulted in Olivia's death. The first indictment charged him with wantonly or recklessly permitting serious bodily injury to Olivia, an elder or person with a disability under his care. See G. L. c. 265, § 13K( e ). The second charged him with having wantonly or recklessly committed or permitted another to commit abuse, neglect, or mistreatment upon Olivia. See G. L. c. 265, § 13K( d ½ ). He was then convicted on both charges. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence claiming, in particular, that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he acted wantonly or recklessly. He also argues that his convictions are duplicative because § 13K( d ½ ) is a lesser included offense of § 13K( e ). We affirm.

When the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, see Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 676-677, 393 N.E.2d 370 (1979), the jury could have found as follows. In September, 2008, the defendant lived with his parents, Olivia and Antonio, in Fall River. Olivia suffered from dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease. She was obese and could not move without assistance. Antonio, who was eighty-nine years old at the time of the events in question, was also in poor health and could not care for Olivia on his own.[2] Thus, the defendant assumed responsibility for his mother's care. He claimed to have bathed, dressed, and fed Olivia daily, and had left his job in order to provide her with full-time care.

On September 28, 2010, paramedics were dispatched to the Cruzes' home in response to a report that Olivia had suffered a stroke. The defendant was outside when the paramedics arrived. He was agitated and urged the paramedics to get his mother out of the house. When the paramedics entered the house, they were overwhelmed by the odor of feces, urine, and rotting flesh. They found Olivia slumped over in a recliner. She was lethargic and incoherent. She was also dirty and unkempt, and as the paramedics were moving her in preparation for transport to the hospital, they found a dirty underpad, known as a " Chux," stuck to her skin. She was in acute distress: she had a weak pulse and was extremely dehydrated.

Olivia was taken to the trauma room at St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River and found to be in septic shock. The subsequent examination revealed that Olivia had decubitus ulcers -- deep open ...


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