Maggots may have kept neglected, obese woman alive

AUBURN, Wash. -- Hundreds of maggots eating away at an obese elderly woman's dead skin may have kept her alive, slowing an infection allegedly coming after days of neglect from her caretaker.

According to court documents, the 70-year-old woman's daughter, Sherrie Morton, faces felony elder-abuse charges after King County sheriff's deputies found the elder woman stuck to the bedding in her home, with maggots eating at an open wound and bed sheets "soiled with the byproducts of injury and covered in bugs."

Morton is charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment of a dependent person. She is in King County jail on $150,000 bail.

Deputies were recently called to a home near Southeast 315th Street. They spotted the 70-year-old woman laying on a bed through a window and entered the home only to be confronted by Morton. Morton, 46, allegedly told detectives she was her mother's caretaker, and that she called police once she noticed her mother's injury.

However, paramedics called to the scene said the elder woman's "septic, gangrenous wound" was at least a month old. In fact, the wound was so bad, the maggots eating at the flesh helped keep the woman alive.

"The maggots may have helped keep (the woman) alive due to the fact that they were eating the rotting skin that was infected and helping to slow the infection," a King County Sheriff's Detective said in court documents.

Firefighters and paramedics in hazardous-material suits were called to the scene to help the 70-year-old woman. They transported the elderly woman to the Valley Medical Center, where staff allegedly removed hundreds of maggots from her body.

Morton claimed she called 911 after spotting the maggots and smelling "rotting flesh" in her mother's room. Morton allegedly admitted some neglect, saying it was a pain to change her 400-pound mother's diaper. A friend of Morton allegedly told police she saw maggots in the woman's wound four days before, and flies circled the room.

Sheriff's detectives found large piles of garbage in the home, and the pervasive smell of rotting flesh, feces and ammonia was evident even through protective masks.