Three former caregivers convicted for death of patient

September 2, 2020

By a Biometrica staffer

Three former caregivers have been sentenced for their roles in the death of a special needs resident at Second Chance Homes (SCH), an organization that provided housing and care for persons with developmental challenges through a Missouri Department of Mental Health initiative.

Sherry Paulo, 55, was sentenced to over 17 years of imprisonment, while her partner Anthony Flores, 60, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for their roles in the death of the resident. Anthony R. K. Flores (R.K. Flores) was sentenced to three years of probation for his role in the tragic death, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores worked as caregivers at SCH. The victim, whom the DoJ only identified as C.D. in its statement, was significantly developmentally challenged and entirely dependent upon his caretakers. He had been a resident at SCH since 2008. Paulo was assigned to care for C.D. in the months leading up to his death.

On November 22 2019, Paulo and Flores each pleaded guilty to one count of willfully failing to provide necessary medical care to C.D. – resulting in his injury and death, in federal court in the Western District of Missouri. Paulo also pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud arising from her efforts to hide C.D.’s death. On February 12 2020, R.K. Flores pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly falsifying a document with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence a federal investigation related to the death of C.D.

“These defendants violated their legal and moral obligation to provide medical care to a person with developmentally disabilities, who was dependent upon them, then attempted to cover up their crime beneath layers of deceit and literal concrete. Besides substandard care and dismal living conditions, they refused to seek medical treatment for their victim as his health deteriorated. Today the justice system is holding them accountable for their roles in his tragic death.”

U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri

Flores and Paulo admitted in their guilty plea that they observed C.D.’s weight decline and his health deteriorate since the beginning of 2014. But Paulo stopped following C.D.’s prescribed health regimen and stopped taking him to his doctors’ appointments. Paulo and Flores observed C.D. become underweight and pale, struggle to eat, and appear to have less energy.

As C.D.’s health deteriorated, Paulo occasionally took him out of his designated SCH residence and put him in the basement of the home she shared with Flores. The basement was small and dark without access to sunlight or running water. Although Paulo and Flores witnessed C.D.’s health continue to decline while in her basement, they did not take him to get necessary medical treatment. They did not want Paulo to be blamed for C.D.’s malnutrition and ill health.

C.D. suffered an acute medical emergency while in the basement room of Paulo and Flores’s home, roughly around September 2016. Despite observing his physical distress and obvious medical need, Paulo and Flores chose not to seek medical care for him. C.D. died in their home while Paulo and Flores watched. Before his death in or about September 2016, C.D. last had last been taken to a doctor in December 2015.  

Paulo and Flores also admitted in their pleas that after C.D.’s death, Paulo placed his body in a trashcan. Paulo and Flores put the trashcan in a wooden crate that they filled with cement. Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores then placed the crate in Paulo’s storage unit.

In the months that followed, Paulo took extensive measures to cover up C.D.’s death. She instructed another SCH resident to lie in C.D.’s bed to convince officials that C.D. was still present at SCH; repeatedly used C.D.’s Electronic Benefits Card; asked an SCH employee to falsely present another SCH resident as C.D. at a doctor’s appointment and get a prescription in C.D.’s name; and falsified numerous official records related to C.D.

After C.D. died, Paulo submitted, or caused to be submitted, false Medicaid claims for services purportedly rendered to C.D. when, as she knew, he was deceased. The amount wrongfully paid by Medicaid, between late 2016 and the first three months of 2017, was $106,795.

It was not until April 2017 that the defendants admitted C.D. was no longer at SCH. Paulo reported C.D. missing to the Fulton, Missouri Police Department on April 17 2017. When interviewed by the police, Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores falsely stated that they had seen C.D. on April 16 2017. They did not admit their wrongdoing until a week later, when the police discovered C.D.’s body.

“Our caregivers have a moral as well as legal obligation to treat those they are entrusted to care for with respect and protect them from abuse. In this free country, it is the solemn duty of government to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable, from criminal acts that result in the horror that occurred in this case. No one should be confined and left to die in a small, dark basement and then hidden in a trash can filled with cement. The department of Justice will ensure that those who commit acts like these and violate the civil rights of others see justice under the law.”

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division