KETTLE FALLS, Wash. – A bedridden woman who turns 106 on Wednesday is doing well in a Colville, Wash., nursing home after she was found begging for food in a filthy house, authorities said.
Stevens County sheriff's deputies went to the home in Kettle Falls, Wash., on May 26 looking for a man because neighbors reported his horses were starving.
The man, John Friedlund, 78, was a caretaker for the woman, Frances Swan. When a deputy found her in a bedroom of the filthy house, she asked for food and said she hadn't eaten in a day, The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane, Wash., reported Tuesday.
Friedlund said Swan had been fed but didn't remember. He was charged Monday with criminal mistreatment.
"He's not a relative. There is no relationship whatsoever," Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said of Friedlund.
Officials are trying to contact the woman's niece in Bremerton, Wash., and have not yet learned who was responsible for her care. She has been placed at the Buena Vista nursing home in Colville and is doing well, Rasmussen said.
The mistreatment case began unfolding as deputies went to arrest Friedlund at Swan's home, where he was living, after neighbors reported several starving horses at Friedlund's property.
When the deputies arrived at the home, they found garbage, metal, car parts, dog feces and "other assorted junk" in the front yard and driveway. Household garbage lined a narrow passageway to the front door.
"As the door opened, a very strong, pungent odor of feces, rotting food, urine, and staleness was easily detected by all the officers outside," detective James Caruso wrote.
Rasmussen said investigators found a photo of Swan's home taken in 2005. "It was a nice, neat little place. Now it's wall-to-wall trash," he said.
Friedlund gave the deputies permission to enter the home to retrieve his medicine. At that point, Caruso asked about the woman who owned the home and asked if they could check on her. Friedlund told the deputies: "She's just fine. I take care of her."
Caruso picked his way through barking dogs, rotten food, filthy dog bowls, scores of guns and ammunition amid odors he described as "almost unbearable" until he reached a bedroom door. When he opened it, he found the "thin, frail woman with pale skin tone. When she saw me, she immediately looked at me and said, 'Please feed me.'"
Caruso identified himself, and Swan again said, "'Please feed me. I haven't eaten since yesterday.' Her voice was soft and labored and it appeared that it was difficult for her to speak," Caruso wrote in the report. "Frances told me she wanted to go to the hospital and be taken care of."
As she pleaded with the detective not to leave, Friedlund entered the room and Swan asked him why he hadn't fed her. "He laughed and said, I fed you today and you know it.'"
Friedlund was later released from jail and Swan was allowed to go back home. After a follow-up investigation by Kettle Falls police and state Adult Protective Services on June 6, investigators decided to remove her from the home.
Friedlund remains in the Stevens County Jail on a $25,000 bond for the mistreatment charge, Rasmussen said.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com