WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Lexington County judge set bond Thursday morning for a man and his daughter accused of allowing Harriett Tidwell, who is the man's wife and woman's mother, to whither away and die.
Bond was set at $75,000 for 61-year-old Robert Edward Tidwell and Roberta Marie Young, 33, on charges of abusing or neglecting a vulnerable adult who later died.
Lexington County deputies say Tidwell allowed his 60-year-old wife to wither away and die, and the couple's daughter did nothing to help her ailing mother.
The sheriff says it's one of the most sickening things he's ever seen, but the family says her husband and caretaker was anything but neglectful.
Harriett Tidwell was taken by ambulance from the family's China Street home to Palmetto Health Richland Hospital on December 1 with more than 20 bedsores, and crawling with maggots. Harriet weighed just 48 pounds, and died a day later. Sheriff James Metts said she was so emaciated that her spinal cord and ribs were clearly visible.
Metts said Harriett and Robert Tidwell had been married for more than 30 years. Harriett was bed-ridden after both of her legs were amputated about 14 years ago because of medical complications related to diabetes. Investigators say Robert and Young were knowingly and willingly responsible for Harriett's well-being and primary care.
Deputies began a criminal investigation on December 2 after hospital personnel contacted the sheriff's department to report abuse concerning Harriett. A hospital social worker said that Harriett Tidwell was taken to the hospital because she had gone several days without eating or drinking.
"It's a shame that something like this as tragic as this, the man's not able to mourn the loss of his wife and his children are not able to mourn the loss of their mother because they're being charged with something that's completely wrong," said Tidwell's niece, Charline Tidwell.
Charline calls the charges against her uncle and her cousin unbelievable. "He was the sole caretaker, him and his daughter for 14 years," said Charline. "You don't live 14 years and call it neglect."
But Lexington County Sheriff James Metts called it the worst case of neglect he's ever seen. "I've seen people burned, I've seen people all kinds of ways, but I'm tellin ya," said Metts. "They had to know," said Metts. "It's so obvious just from her arms, even if she was clothed. If they were taking care of her they would have known seeing the maggots, that something needed to be done that wasn't being done."
"I've seen him sit there with a 16-ounce bottle, teaspoon after teaspoon to make sure she had just what she needed and wanted," said Charline.
Charline says Harriet's death was caused by a combination of her diabetes and a blood disorder she came down with after she lost her legs.
"He would go and pick her up a tray every day at lunch and feed her," said Charline. "She was not neglected. He kept her clean and took care of those wounds to the best of his ability. I think people have the wrong idea, and if they knew the man and knew anything about him they would know if he didn't do anything else, he loved his wife and cherished his family."
Harriett was last seen by her primary care physician on July 13 and a home health care worker last visited Harriett on November 9 at her home, according to investigators.
Detectives found ample medical and food supplies at the Tidwells' home that could have been used to properly care for Harriett, Metts said. The level of care that Harriett received at her home from her husband and daughter remains under investigation.
Under South Carolina law, a person who knowingly and willfully abuses or neglects a vulnerable adult who later dies as a result of the abuse or neglect is guilty of a felony, which carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison, Metts said.
Tidwell and Young are being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. Both are scheduled to appear in court for bond bearings at 9:00 a.m. Thursday.