Parents sentenced for allowing paralyzed daughter to melt into couch over several years


Sheila Fletcher, on the left, and Clay Fletcher, on the right, appear in booking photos; their daughter and the couch she died on, appear inset.

Left: Sheila Fletcher; Right: Clay Fletcher (East Feliciana Parish Jail); Inset: Lacey Fletcher and the couch she died on (Screengrabs via WBRZ).

A Louisiana mother and father who neglected their disabled adult daughter to the point that she “melted” into the family’s couch were sentenced to spend the next 20 years in prison on Wednesday.

Lacey Ellen Fletcher, 36, could not move. Living in nearly complete paralysis with a condition referred to as “locked-in” syndrome, she relied entirely on the care and attention of her parents.

On Jan. 3, 2022, Lacey Fletcher was found dead and sunk into a 1960s-style couch at home in Slaughter — a tiny town of fewer than 100 residents located roughly 40 minutes dorth of Baton Rouge. She was covered in feces, emaciated, her body riven with ulcers. A human-sized hole was worn down into the couch where she sat — and relieved herself — for several years, according to East and West Feliciana Parish District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla.

In early February, in a statement issued by their then-defense attorney after pleading no contest to manslaughter, Sheila Fletcher and Clay Fletcher, both 66, maintained they loved their daughter “to death.”

D’Aquilla voiced incredulousness at the claim — reminding Law&Crime at the time that the woman’s skin was falling off her bones — and vowed to pursue justice for the worst case of human neglect most authorities have seen in the Parish.

Prosecutors pushed for the maximum sentence after the plea — which was technically applied during their sentencing hearing. Both parents were sentenced to 40 years in prison with 20 years of their sentences suspended, according to Baton Rouge-based CBS affiliate WAFB.

The couple will also be subject to five years of supervised probation once released from prison.

“You know, you wouldn’t treat your animals like that,” the prosecutor told the TV station on Wednesday. “If you had a horse that was in the stall behind your house, and you go back there and the flesh is just gone from its body, and you can see bones exposed … I mean, you wouldn’t even treat your animal like that.”

Parish Coroner Dr. Ewell Dewitt Bickham III reportedly said the woman had last seen a doctor swo decades ago. She weighed all of 96 pounds at the time of her death and had COVID-19.

“I couldn’t eat for a week, and I cried for a week,” Bickham told Baton Rouge-based ABC affiliate WBRZ in June 2023.

Last summer, the woman’s parents were indicted in their daughter’s murder — for the second time.

“The question on everybody’s mind is, how could they be caretakers living in the house with her and have her get in a condition like that?” D’Aquilla told New Orleans metro area outlet in late April 2022. “It’s cruelty to the infirm. We can’t just let it sit.”

Months passed before the investigation into Lacey Fletcher’s death had been wrapped up. But by the end, the district attorney was intent on pressing charges. A formal indictment on charges of murder in the second degree was issued against her parents in early May 2022.

That first indictment was tossed by a judge due to defective language in the charging documents — a quickly amended procedural issue.

“This case was so horrific,” D’Aquilla told WBRZ in 2022. “The coroner and the sheriff’s office initially investigates this case in January and the condition she was found was just unbelievable.”

Starvation, the coroner determined, contributed to Lacey Fletcher’s death. Bickham also said that despite when she was found dead by her mother, she likely died two or three days before.

The woman’s body slowly rubbed the hole through the upholstery and cushion, authorities said. The hole was filled with feces and urine. D’Aquilla’s office said there was also feces shoved into the victim’s face, chest, and abdomen — and that her hygiene had been neglected to the point that maggots lived in her matted, knotted hair.

“Opened the door, walked into the house, there was a stench, an odor, feces, fecal material, urine, you couldn’t hold your breath,” Bickham previously told WAFB. “The father was completely emotionless. The mother’s head was lying down on, between her legs. She was weeping a little bit.”

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