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Las Vegas woman charged with murder in ailing mother’s death

Updated July 16, 2019 - 12:45 pm

It seemed obvious to those who saw Judith Howe, unable to speak or care for herself, that she needed to see a doctor.

Her roommate, her daughter’s friends and houseguests would bring up “just about every day” to Judith’s daughter that her deteriorating health required medical attention, according to an arrest warrant. A mutual friend mentioned it to the daughter near Christmas 2017 and again after the new year, the warrant said.

Sandy Howe, 50, who had power of attorney and was tasked with her mother’s care, would respond time and time again that her ailing mother didn’t need a doctor, the warrant said.

The roommate, who had been staying rent-free with the Howes since November 2015 in exchange for helping to care for Judith, announced she had enough on March 26, 2018, the warrant said. After being repeatedly told that she couldn’t take Judith Howe to a doctor, the roommate moved out and went to police.

“(The roommate) said when she looked at (Judith) — who could not verbally communicate — that (her) eyes seemed to communicate to her that she was in so much pain she wanted to die,” a detective wrote in the warrant.

Judith Howe, 73, died April 16, 2018, at Nathan Adelson Hospice, the Clark County coroner’s office said.

And on Saturday, Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested her daughter on charges of murder, abuse of an older person with death or substantial bodily or mental harm and neglect of an older person with death or substantial bodily or mental harm.

Investigators accuse Sandy Howe of failing to provide her mother the proper care she needed as a bedridden, nonverbal Alzheimer’s patient. Citing subpoenaed financial records, they allege that Sandy Howe used her mother’s monthly income to pay for her own expenses at Walmart, pet supply stores and casinos. They did not find payments for medical help or health insurance, the warrant said.

Judith Howe died of complications of neglect of medical care including decubitus ulcers (bedsores), pneumonia and cachexia (wasting syndrome), with Alzheimer’s disease as a significant condition, the coroner’s office said. Her death was ruled a homicide.

An autopsy revealed Judith was covered in bedsores, one of which was so severe that her spine was exposed, the warrant said.

“(Judith Howe) died because Howe failed to take her mother to the doctor — despite being told by hospital officials in May 2015 that (she) needed to be in a nursing home; that she needed home health care; and that Howe needed to follow-up with doctors to further her mother’s medical well-being,” the detective wrote.

The elder Howe was hospitalized for six days starting May 7, 2015, and treated for several kidney-related issues, dehydration, brain damage, a urinary tract infection and Alzheimer’s disease, the warrant said. Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center staff told Sandy Howe that her mother was at risk for bedsores and would need to be placed in a nursing home in the future, and they handed her a booklet with community resources and contact numbers, the warrant said.

An investigator later collected the booklet during the warranted search in April 2018. The spine was stiff, as if it hadn’t been opened, the investigator noted.

The roommate told police she informed Sandy Howe she saw a bedsore in February 2018, but the daughter told her to treat the wound with homeopathic remedies and over-the-counter ointments. The products seemed to worsen the injury and more sores followed, yet Sandy Howe “continued to refuse to seek medical care for her mother.”

After the roommate called authorities on March 26, 2018, paramedics and police showed up to their home on the 4800 block of Monterrey Avenue, near Flamingo Road and Boulder Highway. Paramedics noted Judith Howe had a bedsore that appeared to be scabbed over, the warrant said.

The paramedics told Sandy Howe they thought her mother was suffering from a slight fever and a urinary tract infection, but the daughter declined an ambulance, saying she would take her mother to the hospital the next day.

She never did, nor did she mention the blackened and gangrenous bedsores her mother had developed, investigators wrote.

“Howe’s intentional omission to the first responders about the bedsores on (her) hips and sacrum tend to suggest she was concealing their existence to either continue living off her mother’s income or to avoid arrest/prosecution for neglecting her mother,” the warrant said.

Detectives returned to the house on April 2, 2018, and hailed an ambulance for Judith Howe because she was in “obvious need” of medical help. Sandy Howe again promised to take her mother to the doctor the following day and “begged us not to take” her mother to the hospital.

In an interview with investigators, Howe gave inconsistent accounts as to what she knew of her mother’s bedsores and when she knew of them and blamed the former roommate for her mother’s sores.

Howe was denied bail at a Monday morning court hearing. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 30, court records show.

She did not have an attorney named in court records.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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