GRAND BAY, Ala. (WALA) – A boarding home under investigation for elder abuse had a resident with mental health needs requiring round-the-clock care, according to newly available court documents.
Deputies last week charged the owners of the home in Grand Bay, Donny and Tilena Owens, with elder abuse and neglect. A criminal complaint against Donny Owens accuses him of failing to provide 24-hour care to a victim described as paranoid schizophrenic who cannot feed himself and requires constant care.
The Mobile County sheriff’s deputy who swore out a separate criminal complaint against Tilena Owens referenced vermin-infested wounds on another resident, something investigators spoke about publicly last week when they described six veterans living in “deplorable” conditions.
The deputy wrote that Tilena Owens “neglected to care for an open wound on the victims leg which became infected, was oozing puss causing flies and maggots to evacuate the wound and the possible outcome of amputation.”
Attorneys for the defendants denied those allegations.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any evidence at all with respect to maggots or flies,” said attorney John Williams, who represents Tilena Owens. “I really don’t know where that comes from.”
Dennis Knizley, the lawyer for Donny Owens, also denied the accusation, calling it “totally, 100 percent false.”
Knizley said it is not true that a resident of the boarding home was unable to feed himself and needed 24-hour care.
“The man had every ability to feed himself,” he said. “He had been in the facility for a year. … There’s no issue about him being able to feed himself. How could that be the case if he had been in the facility for a year?”
Earlier this week, after the defendants had been released on bond, Mobile County District Judge Spiro Cheriogotis granted a prosecution request to add pair of conditions to their release – that the defendants not leave the state of Alabama without the court’s permission and that they have no contact with a potential witness.
A court filing by Assistant District Attorney Clay Rossi indicates that authorities believe the defendants run similar facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana. Rossi also stated that the defendants or their representative had been “harassing and/or intimidating” the woman, but he did not elaborate.
Knizley said the potential witness referenced in the document is a woman who had been an employee of the Owens couple up to the day of the law enforcement raid last week.
Knizley said he knows of no effort to contact the woman other than by his investigator.
“We attempted to have an investigator contact all witnesses in this case,” he said. “The witness said she did not want to speak, and she was respectfully told that that was fine and she had no obligation to speak to anyone she didn’t want to.”
Both Knizley and Williams said they were unaware of the prosecution’s motion to change the bond conditions. A look at the court’s electronic filing system indicates why they probably never received notice. It lists Rossi – the prosecutor – at the attorney of record for the defendants.
Knizley, meanwhile, filed paperwork on behalf of his client pleading not guilty and waiving next week’s arraignment. He asked for a preliminary hearing.