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Man Charged With Neglect In Wife’s Death; Accused Of Cashing Her Disability Checks

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Updated 07/12/12 – 6:25 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Brookfield man stands accused of neglecting the medical needs of his bedridden wife for years, refusing to even purchase a proper bed or basic first aid products while spending his wife’s disability checks.

Joseph Duffy, 70, was charged with two counts of criminal abuse or neglect of an elderly person, in the death of his wife, Mary Jane Duffy.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office, Mary Jane Duffy weighed less than 60 pounds when she died, after suffering from years of neglect and abuse.

“She was a 60-year-old woman who weighed 56 pounds at her death. She was found in the fetal position. She had 13 different major bed sores on her,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya Reports

The sheriff said he believes state investigators might have dropped the ball on this case. It is part of the sheriff’s office’s ongoing investigation. Dart said others tried to help, and he wants to know why calls to the state were apparently never answered.

Joseph Duffy, who is unemployed, spent money from his wife’s disability checks, while leaving her to sleep on a cot in her own filth, the sheriff’s office said.

“When he was arrested, his statement was, ‘Well, now I’m not going to get the pension check and disability check anymore,” Dart said.

mary jane duffy Man Charged With Neglect In Wifes Death; Accused Of Cashing Her Disability Checks

Mary Jane Duffy pictured in 2000, 2009 and 2011. (Credit: Cook County Sheriff)

These photos tell the sad, disturbing story of Mary Jane Duffy’s final years. At left, how she looked a decade ago before dementia set in. At right, the way she looked when police found her last August, near death, lying on a filthy cot in her Brookfield home.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Geary Kull set Joseph Duffy’s bond today at $75,000 at the Maywood courthouse.

According to prosecutors, Mary Jane Duffy began suffering from dementia in 2006. She was left bedridden and unable to care for herself. The victim was retired and received monthly disability checks from her former employer, as well as Social Security.

Mary Jane Duffy, 61, received in-home nursing care that escalated to the point that she required assistance seven days a week in the last year of her life.

“At different times [Joseph Duffy] refused to allow care to be given to his wife, and in one of the situations a nurse he actually did not allow in because he did not want someone of her ethnicity to be in his house,” Dart told WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya.

Dart said Duffy had been neglecting and abusing his wife for years behind the closed doors of their home before she died. He also said he believes others, who helped care for Mary Jane Duffy, knew about it.

Among those people was Barry Sumida, a Duffy family friend, who sometimes stayed at the apartment.

“I was more looking out for Mary,” he said. “I tried as much as I could.”

Sumida wouldn’t say if he ever called police about the neglect of Mrs. Duffy, but he is now helping investigators.

Dart said he is more concerned with caregivers’ calls to the Illinois Department of Human Services’ inspector general. He said there were more than half a dozen calls to that office, which apparently got no response.

“We have information that people passed information on to different agencies,” Dart said. “We want to circle back and find out where people failed, and where they did not do their job.”

The inspector general’s office at the Illinois Department of Human Services said Joseph Duffy was the subject of four face-to-face visits and investigations, dating back to 2003. The office responded to each of the hotline calls it received, and worked with local authorities and social workers, spokesperson Januari Smith Trader said in an email.

“We take this very seriously and are concerned about this tragic incident. Following the directives outlined in the Governor’s recent Executive Order, this case is currently under detailed review,” she said.

Investigators also suspect Mary Jane Duffy, who suffered broken bones and bruising, might be been harmed physically by Mr. Duffy, but those abuse allegations were never proven.

In one instance, when a nurse first came to work for the victim, she found she was sleeping on an army cot without even a pillow in filthy conditions. The nurse repeatedly asked the defendant to purchase his wife a decent bed to sleep in but he refused. Eventually the nurse purchased Mary Jane Duffy a pillow with her own money.

Though the nurse helped care for the victim, Joseph Duffy was responsible for purchasing her food and caring for her when the nurse was away. When the caretaker returned to the Duffy’s home she would consistently find the victim had been unattended.

The defendant even refused to buy his wife bandages for the severe bed sores that she had developed.

According to Dart, the situation was reported to the state’s inspector general’s office. He said his department will investigate why nothing was done sooner. Mrs. Duffy has been in and out of hospitals for treatment several times between 2005 and her death in 2011.

In August of 2011, Joseph Duffy was finally convinced to contact a hospice to care for his wife.

When a nurse from the hospice arrived to assess the victim she was in a severely emaciated condition, had numerous bed sores, and had stopped eating. The hospice company then reported Mary Jane Duffy’s condition to authorities. Brookfield Police then responded to the Duffy home and convinced the defendant to have his wife taken to a hospital. She died nine days later.