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January 3, 2022, is a day permanently etched in the memory of the people of Slaughter, a small town in Louisiana. On this day, 36-year-old Lacey Fletcher was found dead in her parents’ home. The authorities found her body on a couch, soiled with her urine, feces, and bodily fluids.
According to the description given by the local medical examiner, Lacey was “melted” into the couch. Lacey reportedly suffered from several medical issues, including Locked-in Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes complete paralysis of voluntary muscles. She also suffered from social anxiety. She had a history of Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autism spectrum disorder), which rips the sufferer off their social skills.
East Feliciana Parish coroner, Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III stated that Lacey’s death was a homicide. He blamed a decade of medical negligence for
“chronic malnutrition, acute starvation, immobility, acute ulcer formation, osteomyelitis, which led to sepsis”.
Here are all the details regarding Lacey Ellen Fletcher’s death.
A glimpse into her “normal life”
Lacy Ellen Fletcher was born on November 25, 1985, to Sheila and Clay Fletcher. She lived with her parents in Slaughter, a town in Louisiana. The family lived in a small 1755-square-foot house spread over 3.64 acres on Tom Drive. Lacey might be the only child of her parents.
Lacey’s mother, Sheila Fletcher, was a police and court clerk in Baker. Of late, she had been working as an assistant to the city prosecutor in Zachary. Clay Fletcher, her father, worked as an officer of the Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable.
Lacey went to Brownsville Baptist Academy. She played volleyball. Her friends and neighbors described her as any normal child.
When was Lacey last seen?
Lacey had long seized going out of her home (or maybe off her couch) for many years. Robert Blades, the family’s neighbor, shared the memory of when he spotted little Lacy last.
According to Robert, Lacey appeared physically normal but very thin. She was carrying small weights and exercising in the roadway.
Lacey’s friends from her childhood described her as sweet, kind, and thoughtful. As a child, she suffered from autism, which worsened by the time she was 14. She attended school till 9th grade, but then her parents began home-schooling her, owing to her deteriorating health.
Robert’s son described Lacey as “different” and “not a typical teenager”. He stated that although she was smart, she was more inclined towards children’s things, like watching Disney movies at 17 or 18 and listening to country music.
Not many people saw her after she stopped going to school. According to reports, in 2010, Lacey’s parents went to see a doctor without her. She took professional help for three years during her teens.
Robert Blades recalls asking Clay Fletcher about her in 2017 after he had not seen her for a long time. In Robert’s words, Clay told her she was well and drove the conversation to other topics.
What happened to Lacy Fletcher?
Lacey was discovered in shocking conditions in her parents’ Slaughter home. She was sitting upright, her feet crossed under her body, stuck in a hole on a couch. The crater was filled with feces and urine. Her body was covered in sores and maggots. There were ulcers on her underside that were “rotten to the bone” and excreta smeared on her body.
Her mother, Sheila, saw her body on the morning of January 3, 2022, at around 2 a.m. and called 911. As per some reports, a neighbor was present with her mother at that moment and suggested she call 911 and tell the authorities that Lacey was not breathing. The truth behind this claim is still a mystery.
A Sheriff’s Deputy left for the Fletcher’s home and called the Coroner, Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III.
Lacey weighed only 96 pounds when found covered in her own filth. She might have sat on the couch in agony for 12 long years.
She was also tested positive for COVID-19. As per the reports, she did not receive any treatment for COVID. She had not seen any medical care provider for over than 20 years.
On the other hand, Lacey’s parents claimed that she was “of sound mind”. She did not want to leave the living room, forcing them to let her stay on the couch and give her meals there. They even set up a toilet for her.
As per the Coroner’s office, Lacey’s parents were on a weekend trip when she died. She passed away 24 to 48 hours before her mother called the authorities.
The horrific scene
When the authorities arrived at the scene, they found Lacey on a sofa. She was sunk into the couch up to her shoulders.
The authorities have taken several Lacey Fletcher photos. None of the images was published owing to the disturbing graphic content.
Lacey was half-naked, wearing only a blue t-shirt that was not even covering her chest. Her eyes and mouth were wide open, and her legs crossed underneath her body.
She had excrement all over her chest, abdomen, face, hair, and even inside her ears. Her face showed red blotches. There were maggots and insect bites all over her body.
Lacey Fletcher couch was alongside the wall. Her body had worn the brown leather sofa, abrading the cushioning. On the right side of the couch was a gray commode and a pile of clothes. Behind the sofa, the floor had a large wet patch that could be urine.
Lacey Fletcher autopsy photos revealed that the flesh on her buttocks had worn out due to sitting on the couch for 12 long years. Her back and buttocks had yellow areas where the skin had melted away, along with some areas that had blackened.
The latest development
Lacey’s parents, Sheila and Clay Fletcher, have been put on trial once again on account of murder. The couple was first arrested in May 2022, many months after the authorities found Lacey Fletcher body.
A grand jury of twelve charged the couple with second-degree murder (the jury decided that they should not face manslaughter charges) in May in Clinton, Louisiana. They walked free on a bond of $300,000 each. Sheila was the first to get out on bail on May 4. Clay came out on May 5 because of a bond delay. In July 2022, they pleaded not guilty.
After a hearing on May 30, District Judge Kathryn “Betsy” Jones dropped the charges of murder, citing defective language in the charging affidavits as the reason.
On June 19, 2023, the couple was re-indicted on charges of second-degree murder by a grand jury. District attorney Sam D’Aquilla asserted that they will make sure that Lacey gets justice and that her parents, the caregivers, will be charged for abuse and neglect of the person in their care.
On the other hand, Steven Moore, the lead lawyer of the suspects, mentioned that there were six differences between the indictment papers presented by the DA’s office and those in the official record. They also highlighted the absence of any intent and no signing by the foreperson as reasons to drop the charges.
The judge did not toss the indictment.
A brief about Locked-in Syndrome
Lacey Fletcher suffered from locked-in syndrome. It is a rare neurological condition that causes complete physical paralysis of voluntary muscles. People suffering from this disorder cannot move or speak, but are conscious and aware of their surroundings. They can think, reason and understand others. They can even communicate through eye motions (vertical eye movements).
Patients suffering from LiS are totally dependent on their caregivers.
Lacey lost her life due to “acute medical neglect” and “severe chronic neglect” under the care of her parents. Her parents, Sheila and Clay Fletcher, are behind bars for a second time in connection with the death of their daughter.
The news of this gruesome act still haunts the world and stresses the importance of proper care and attention a physically challenged person requires.
This case raises several questions, why were Lacey’s parents ignorant of her deteriorating health? Why did they not take her to a doctor for years? Why did they ignore her hygiene and sanitary conditions for so long?
As the suspects are in custody, we might soon find answers to all these questions.
Lacey did not deserve to die this way. We hope justice will prevail.