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Tampa man charged with neglect in mother's death

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Published:   |   Updated: July 25, 2013 at 05:48 AM

TAMPA - The floor was covered in mud and a tree grew so tall in one of the rooms that it punched a hole in the roof. The home had no electricity or running water, and rats and roaches scuttled inside the small, blue concrete block house at the south end of a cul-de-sac on North 38th Street.

Inside, police found the body of 82-year-old Louise Baker Holmes.

Holmes' son, James Edward Holmes, 58, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of neglect of an elderly or disabled adult. This was the second time in a month police have investigated a suspected case of elderly neglect involving a death.

James Holmes was being held Wednesday at Hillsborough County Jail with bail set at $25,000.

Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said officers arrived at the home at 4910 N. 38th St. on Tuesday after receiving a 911 call.

The home was in deplorable condition, Davis said, and the roof was caving in.

"Some of the officers who were in the house said the conditions there were some of the worst they've seen," Davis said.

Holmes was his mother's primary caregiver, Davis said, and he told detectives he visited his mother daily. He told police his mother has been unable to walk since July 4 and needed medical treatment, Davis said.

An autopsy was performed Wednesday to determine cause of death, but results are still pending.

Last month, Osmond Winston and his adult children were arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter after Winston's wife died while under his care.

Investigators said Mary Winston, 66, was bedridden for three years in her northwest Tampa home with rheumatoid artritis, but her husband and children neglected to take care of her.

Mary Winston had developed ulcers on her body and a bedsore on her back so severe it became an open wound, exposing her rib bones to open air, investigators said. Bandages had been placed on the sores, but there weren't changed regularly and fused to her wounds.

Osmond Winston is being held on $100,000 bail at the county jail. His daughters, Hyacinth and Belinda, are being held without bail.

Kevin Hansen, a former attorney for Minnesota's Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, said many factors can lead to elderly neglect.

"There's caregiver stress, but that's an explanation, not an excuse," said Hansen, who is now a doctoral student at the University of South Florida's School of Aging and Adult Studies.

"Sometimes it's just a family member who's in over their head and they don't know the resources or agencies to reach out to."

Hansen said theories and research on the cause of elderly neglect are varied, but a common thread in cases that result in death are that the primary caregivers are usually family members.

"We make assumptions that family will take care of family," he said. "Unfortunately, that's not always the case."

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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