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In what police say is a shocking case of elder neglect, a Daly City, California, tax auditor and his wife have been charged with felony elder abuse following the death of the man's 81-year-old mother.
When authorities discovered Pik Ng in January, she was lying on the floor of a small, cold, waste-ridden bedroom off the garage of her son and daughter-in-law's middle class home in a suburb of San Francisco. She was emaciated, unable to talk and covered in bedsores and her own urine and feces.
Rushed to a hospital, she was treated for malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia and hypothermia but died a few weeks later. An indication of how long she had been neglected, according to the San Mateo District Attorney's Office, was the length of her toenails, which had grown between one-half and one inch beyond the ends of her toes.
While the mother was slowly starving to death, her son and daughter-in-law were apparently living a pleasant, middle class life in the remainder of the house.
Albert Kong, 49, and his wife, Sandie Kong, 44, were both charged with elder abuse along with a special enhancement for causing the death of a person over the age of 70. If convicted, they each could serve up to 11 years in prison.
"Under (the law), anyone who takes on the role of caretaker is responsible for what a reasonable person would do," said Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan. "In this case, the reasonable person would have sought out medical attention for (Ng) instead of letting her basically starve to death."
A 1997 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that for every reported incident of elder abuse, about five go unreported.
"This is a classic case of elder abuse neglect," McKowan said, "and this is a worst-case scenario."
For an article on the case in the San Francisco Chronicle, click here.