By: Gordon Rago , firstname.lastname@example.org
Last February, West Manheim Township Police entered a home on Baltimore Pike and one of the first things they noticed were the bed bugs.
The pests were seen on walls and along ledges. They scurried on the bed sheets and pillow where an elderly woman slept in a first floor room. That woman, police said, told officers she was blind, but could “feel them crawling.”
Sometimes, she said, the bugs bit her, too.
EMS would later check on that woman, but did not notice any visible injuries, police said.
But, according to police, there was a second woman who was living at the home, too. Both had been staying there under the care of the home’s owner, Deborah Butler, who had previously run a licensed home care facility, Luckenbaugh Personal Care Home.
Butler, 72, closed that business a few years ago, and the women had stayed with her at her own home, police said. Butler provided food, shelter, clothing as well as personal and health care. Both women paid for the care services, documents state.
Two weeks after police visited Butler’s house for the first time, that second woman, Mary Stoner, 96, died at York Hospital. An autopsy determined that her cause of death was from “complications of sepsis following a bed bug infestation,” according to charging documents.
Felony charges were filed against Butler earlier this week. She faces neglect of care, a first-degree felony, as well as involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor.
According to police, Stoner was brought to the emergency room at York Hospital on Feb. 6, 2016. She had sores on her skin and staff there was under the opinion that Stoner’s infection was a result of bed bug bites, police said.
Stoner’s family moved her out of Butler’s home on Feb. 3 after noticing her health worsen. During previous visits, family told police Stoner was in good health.
Stoner was discharged from the hospital about a week later, only to be readmitted again. Doctors said she had pneumonia.
A week later she died.
In talking with police prior to Stoner’s death, Butler told them she had been trying to get rid of the bed bugs since September 2015 and had used store-bought supplies. She said she could not afford an exterminator and blamed Stoner for bringing in the bugs, documents state.
Butler had taken Stoner to her family doctor in January because Stoner had been scratching her neck and been sick. Butler did not mention bed bugs during the doctor’s appointment, police said, and Stoner didn’t mention them either.
In the coming weeks, Butler said she noticed no change in Stoner’s condition. But police said “evidence later indicated that the victim’s condition would have been clearly visible and obvious that serious medical attention was required.”
Stoner received no further medical treatment until her family took her to York Hospital in February.
In the week after Stoner’s death, police executed a search warrant of Butler’s home. York County Forensic Team collected evidence and photographed the home, documents state.
Bed bugs were seen in various stages of their life cycle, police wrote in charging documents.
Butler appeared for a preliminary arraignment on Thursday before District Judge James S. Miner. Unsecured bail was set at $50,000, meaning she was free to go. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled March 9.
Attempts to reach Butler were unsuccessful Friday night.
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services annual reports on personal care homes show no violations at Luckenbaugh Personal Care Home between 2008-2011, the only years for which reports that list individual homes’ violations are online.