Penn Hills caregivers face trial in death of man with disabilities
March 11, 2017 12:59 AM
Pamela McNeal and Adam Haynes
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A judge on Friday ordered a Penn Hills couple to stand trial in the November 2015 death of a man with disabilities who was living with them.
In an emotional preliminary hearing at City Court Downtown that ran more than two hours, Adam Haynes and Pamela McNeal were held for court on charges of homicide, neglect, conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person in connection with the death of David Fuhrman. The 54-year-old was extremely malnourished and showed signs of medical neglect when he died.
District Judge Thomas G. Miller of White Oak dismissed a charge of unlawful restraint against the couple, who remain in the Allegheny County Jail.
Attorney J. Kerrington Lewis, who represented Ms. McNeal, 59, said while she may have been negligent, she isn’t responsible for Mr. Fuhrman’s death. Christopher Patarini, who represented Mr. Haynes, 48, declined to speak with reporters after the hearing but said his client would plead not guilty.
The pair were formal caretakers for Mr. Fuhrman for years in the county’s domiciliary care program for adults who can’t live alone. The couple moved from Crafton to Penn Hills and left the program, and Mr. Fuhrman willingly withdrew from the program to live with them. She was no longer “paid to be a caretaker” and essentially became “a landlord” for Mr. Fuhrman, the attorney said.
“She was required to provide a little more care” under the “dom” program, he told reporters after the hearing. But even when they left it, “she did care for him, that’s the point. He got sick fast,” he said, noting that a hospital scale showed he’d lost 60 pounds around a year before his death. He said she pureed his food when he could no longer chew.
“I think that she cared for him, I just think it got over her head,” he said. The couple received some compensation for housing Mr. Fuhrman, but it was less than what they got under the county’s paid caregivers program, he said. Mr. Fuhrman’s insurance situation wasn’t entirely clear.
Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams testified that Mr. Fuhrman died in part from a lung infection that results from inhaling food or another liquid. He described “extraordinary malnutrition” and severe bedsores down to the bone.
But he said pathologists here were reluctant to rule the death a homicide at first because they didn’t have a full picture of how “completely dependent” Mr. Fuhrman was on the couple. A review of his medical history and phone consultations with pathologists elsewhere prompted him to change the cause of death from “undetermined” to “homicide” late last year. Charges were filed in December.
“Anybody looking at this picture .... would have to recognize something is dreadfully, dreadfully wrong with this person,” Dr. Williams said.
In her closing remarks, Julie Capone, an assistant district attorney for Allegheny County, bristled at Mr. Lewis’ assertion that Mr. Fuhrman’s condition declined quickly.
“This is not ‘quick,’ your honor,” she said, holding photos of an emaciated Mr. Fuhrman, who weighed 76 pounds at the time of this death. “This is like a concentration camp.”
During the proceeding, Mr. Patarini said his client tried to tell his wife that Mr. Fuhrman needed to see a doctor as his health declined in 2015.
Mr. Fuhrman last went to the doctor in late 2014.
Mr. Haynes would drive Mr. Fuhrman to work at his job at Goodwill Industries and described the two as “beer buddies” who enjoyed a close friendship, county police Detective Mike Feeney testified.
Mr. Fuhrman was found dead Nov. 24, 2015, after Mr. Haynes called 911.
During interviews with police, Mr. Haynes repeatedly said he wanted to be arrested, according to testimony.
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