Before Wayne Hubert Chancey left on vacation Friday, he hired a nurse technician and a home health care aide to look after his 70-year-old bedridden mother. He left several cans of soup and gave the technician $10 to feed the elderly woman while he was away for 10 days.
He told Sunshine Services technician Merry Doss not to worry about his ailing 88-year-old aunt, Gladys Maurine Weeks, who was staying with his mother, Juanita Chancey, in the basement of his Bel Air home, "because she could take care of herself," Ms. Doss said.
Five days later, the elderly women are in fair condition at Harford Memorial Hospital, recovering from malnutrition and dehydration. The two sisters had been left in the basement of Mr. Chancey's two-story colonial home in the Amyclae Estates neighborhood without adequate food, said Sgt. Edward Hopkins, Harford County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
Detectives with the Sheriff's Office and officials with the county Department of Social Services have not decided whether to press neglect charges, said Cpl. Paul Cole, the chief investigator in the case for the Sheriff's Office. "Neglect means depriving them of food, clothing or medical treatment," he said.
"We would like to speak to Mr. Chancey in a timely manner," he said. But no one is sure where to find Mr. Chancey, owner of the Green Meadow Montessori School in Churchville. Attempts by The Sun to locate Mr. Chancey in Ozark, Ala., where he had told Ms. Doss that he was vacationing with his wife and two children, were not successful.
The women had been staying in the basement about three weeks, Sergeant Hopkins said. Mr. Chancey, 41, a major in the Army Reserves, apparently had moved them to Bel Air from Ozark in southeastern Alabama.
Ms. Doss said she was hired to look in on Mrs. Chancey twice daily on the weekends starting Saturday and once each evening during the week. Another agency, Staff Builders Home Health Care Inc. in Bel Air, was hired to send a home health aide to the house each morning during the week to give Mrs. Chancey a bath and to check her vital signs, according to Renee J. Silver, a Staff Builders spokeswoman.
Neither was hired to tend to Mrs. Weeks.
"It quickly became obvious that neither woman was capable of caring for herself," said Ms. Doss, 27. "Both women suffered from dementia."
Mrs. Weeks walked aimlessly throughout the basement and often wandered into the back yard, where there is a swimming pool that Ms. Doss said she feared Mrs. Weeks would fall into.
The only source of hot water in the basement was from a washing machine, Ms. Doss said. "There were five cans of food -- including two cans of noodle soup -- a couple boxes of doughnuts, some juice, some lunch meat and some milk," Ms. Doss said. "That was all.
"There was no stove. Just a small microwave. Mrs. Chancey was sleeping on a mattress that was covered in plastic. It had been covered with a doormat and a blanket. She was developing a bed sore" and had been lying in her own urine, she said.
"I was worried about them," Ms. Doss said. "They didn't have any clothes. They had come from Alabama with the clothes on their backs and not much else. Mrs. Chancey was wearing filthy slippers that kept falling off her feet.
"I used my own money to buy them food and a few necessities -- some sheets, a couple of gowns, lotion, powder and cream. I even bought Mrs. Chancey some socks," Ms. Doss said. She spent about $35 of her own money, she said.
Ms. Doss said she checked in on the sisters throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. She lives within a mile of the Chancey home. On Monday, Ms. Doss met the Staff Builders nurse at the home and they called authorities, she said. The Staff Builders nurse could not be reached for comment.
When the health care workers called Monday, "we realized that even 24-hour in-home health care would not be adequate because there was not adequate food and no hot water," said Dr. Charles Eck, an Aberdeen internist who had given Mrs. Chancey a physical three weeks ago.
"Both women suffered from dehydration and borderline to mild malnutrition," said Dr. Eck. He admitted the two women to Harford Memorial Hospital on Monday.
Mr. Chancey's attorney, Robert G. Cassilly, would not say whether he has heard from his client since Friday. "I couldn't comment one way or another."