In a disturbing case of abuse, Pittsburgh woman Vonda Brown is accused of starving her disabled son, burning him, and using his Social Security benefits for reasons other than his care.
Police began investigating Brown last fall after her 24-year-old son, who has autism and cerebral palsy, was admitted to Ohio Valley Hospital because of severe burns on his hand. At the time of his admittance, the man weighed only 58 pounds and remained hospitalized for two months because of his extreme malnutrition.
Authorities say that the disabled man was literally screaming to be fed when brought to the hospital.
Police indicate that the burn on Brown’s son’s hand was the result of his hand being submerged and held in an extremely hot liquid. Brown’s attorney, however, maintains that the son was being treated for a staph infection.
A staph infection, of course, still would not explain why a grown man came into the hospital so malnourished that he weighed under 60 pounds.
After the man was brought back to health, he was moved to a care facility rather than going back home with Brown. But despite no longer having her son in her home, Vonda Brown continued to receive monthly social security deposits. That money, however, was not meant to benefit Brown — it was money that was intended to go strictly towards the care of Brown’s son, but was not. Police say that Vonda Brown collected more than $4,000 in Social Security payments as the representative payee for her disabled son, meaning she was supposed to be the person responsible for using the benefits for her son’s needs.
Brown was able to get away with this because she was involved in a romantic relationship with Armando Navarro, the in-home caretaker employed to take care of Brown’s son and paid for through the state’s Medicaid-funded Independence Waiver Program.
To say the very least, Navarro utterly failed at his job to take care of Brown’s son. In addition to the negligence, Navarro also continued to submit time sheets, which Brown signed.
Vonda Brown has been charged with aggravated assault, Medicaid fraud, and 12 counts of theft.
A Missouri couple recently faced similar charges when it was found that they were keeping their young son, who is non-verbal and autistic, in a cage in the basement while they collected his benefit money, leaving authorities to believe they viewed the child merely as a means of income. For more on that story, click here.
[Image via Pennlive.com]