Blind teen with CP found living in filth; caregivers charged

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 16 at 4:04 PM

A 19-year-old woman, blind and with cerebral palsy, was found nearly naked and surrounded by filth in her North Bend home and her caregivers have been charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment and Medicaid fraud.

Heather Curtis was 7 when she was orphaned and left in the care of April and Jeffrey Henderson, neither of whom are related to the woman. According to court documents, April Henderson was the young woman's full-time caretaker and Jeffrey Henderson is her legal guardian.

Documents say the Hendersons were unemployed and supported themselves and their four children on the $4,000 per month they received in government benefits to care for Curtis.

In 2012, King County detectives conducted a welfare check at the Henderson home in North Bend.

Detective Belinda Paredes-Garrett said in court documents that investigators were “taken aback” by the conditions in Curtis’ room.

“Heather lived in the worse (sic) conditions I have experienced in 16 years of law enforcement,” Paredes-Garrett said. “Her room was covered in feces, vomit, and debris. Her wheelchair was covered in filth and had an overwhelming odor of feces and urine.”

Curtis was lying on the lower bunk of a bunk bed, naked except for a soiled diaper.

“Heather was flailing and moaning, crying, the only way to describe her moaning was that of a wounded animal,” Paredes-Garrett said. “She was severely thin, skeletal like.”

April Henderson was “aggressive,” and tried to interfere with investigators’ inspection, Paredes-Garrett said.

April told Paredes-Garrett that investigators caught them on a “bad day.” Jeff said it was a “bad week,” but admitted they had “screwed up” in caring for Curtis.

April told investigators she had thought caring for Curtis would become easier as she got older but instead it had become more difficult.

Paredes-Garrett noted that while in the Hendersons' home she saw two flat-screen TVs, laptops, an iPad and iPhone, as well as many video components and games.

“Jeffrey also has an extensive collection of reptiles,” she said. “He claims he is a collector only, but was not able to explain how he was able to afford such a collection.”

Heather Curtis was immediately removed from the Henderson’s home and taken to Seattle Children’s Hospital for emergency care. She weighed 67 pounds and Her teeth were in such bad shape she had 19 root canals and four extractions.

Doctors said she would have been suffering with extreme pain for years. A nurse who took over guardianship of Curtis said the teen would have died if she had remained in the home and continued to be neglected.

The Hendersons later agreed that Curtis should be placed in a care facility.

Documents say Curtis continues to improve and has gained 30 pounds. She attends school and responds to her caregiver.

Documents say after Curtis was removed from the home, April Henderson filed for unemployment, claiming to have been laid off. State Employment Security Department investigators say she owes $19,440 in undeserved unemployment payments.

The Hendersons currently reside in Saint Augustine, Fla. A bail amount for each was set at $50,000. They have not been jailed.

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