A mother and son who are each facing a felony count of neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in serious bodily injury could face homicide charge, according to Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy.
Marie E. Fitzgerald, 61, and Christopher Preedom, 40, both of Rutland, were in Rutland criminal court on Monday for a status conference on their case.
Kennedy told Judge David Fenster the case was in a “little bit of a holding pattern” because of the unusual nature of what happened to Mary E. Fitzgerald, who is Marie Fitzgerald’s mother and Preedom’s grandmother.
Mary Fitzgerald, a member of the Rutland High School Class of ‘53 and former employee of Gill’s Delicatessen and Tastee Bakery, according to her obituary, died in February.
In September, Dermot J. Hanna, 59, a nurse who had worked at Mountain View Center was accused of diverting Mary Fitzgerald’s pain medication for his own use while Mary Fitzgerald was dying.
Hanna, 59, of Killington, pleaded not guilty in Rutland criminal court to two felony counts of obtaining a regulated drug by fraud and two misdemeanor counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
The case is being handled by the Vermont Attorney General’s office.
During the hearing for Marie Fitzgerald and Preedom on Monday, Kennedy said she heard from medical personnel that Mary Fitzgerald’s death may have been “largely caused by the neglect.”
However, Kennedy said her office is still gathering information to determine whether homicide charges are appropriate and can be proven in court, especially after the alleged diversion of medication that happened in February.
Kennedy said she may be amending the charges against Marie Fitzgerald and Preedom but said she also understood she had been telling the court about the potential change for some time. She asked Fenster for an extension of a few more months.
Attorney Robert Sussman, who represents Preedom, said he was not going to object on behalf of his client.
“Obviously, it’s a hardship waiting to find out whether we’re facing homicide charges. We’re hoping we can get an answer sooner rather than later,” he said.
Fenster pointed out he didn’t know if he had the authority to require Kennedy to meet a deadline for amending charges. Kennedy had already told the court she might drop the charges and refile in order to meet timing requirements.
Marie Fitzgerald and Preedom were arraigned based on an affidavit filed by a Vermont State Police trooper.
The affidavit said a staff member at Rutland Regional Medical Center contacted police in August 2018 about a patient, later identified as Mary Fitzgerald, who had been brought to the hospital with injuries, extremely thin and covered with feces.
A trooper said that based on investigating deaths, he “noticed a distinct odor of decaying flesh in the room,” when speaking with Mary Fitzgerald.
Nurses who treated Mary Fitzgerald said bedding material was embedded in her skin.
Preedom told police that he and his mother took care of his grandmother but said Mary Fitzgerald had dementia and refused to see doctors.
The charge against Marie Fitzgerald and Preedom is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Fenster said he would reschedule the case for a status conference for February to see if the state had any more information about whether the charges would be amended.