Cottage Grove woman ordered held pending trial

Cottage Grove woman ordered held pending trial
Carel June Cody

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — To Carel June Cody's neighbors, she was not just the woman responsible for caring for elderly and disabled patients at her foster home in the 1990s but also the one who would physically abuse and publicly berate them.

Her neighbor's observations in Creswell, Ore., and other allegations led state officials to strip her of her license.

Then last week, the case took a strange turn.

Prosecutors came forward with allegations that she buried the body of a man who died in her care and illegally cashed his Social Security checks for at least 15 years.

And this week, they presented a host of new allegations.

Cody, they said, had four other elderly men die in her care. In one man's case, Cody and her son had themselves named as the man's life insurance beneficiaries.

No criminal charges were filed, but a cloud of neglect and abuse complaints surrounded each of their deaths.

Department of Human Services' records "show a frightening pattern of abuse and disregard for DHS's authority," prosecutors wrote, urging a judge to keep her in custody while she awaits trial on charges of identity theft and lying to investigators.

Cody, 46, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

She has not been charged in the death of John Arnold, the man she told investigators she buried. Prosecutors say she stole more than $200,000 in retirement benefits from him after his 1995 death. His body has not been found.

Cody obtained her caregiver license in 1988 and, four years later, was reprimanded for alleged financial exploitation of clients. Less than two weeks later, the state restricted her permit to operate an adult foster home.

At the home in the mid-1990s, neighbors noticed something amiss. Cody was handling the residents roughly, the neighbors told investigators, raising her voice so loud she could be heard across the street. An elderly man suffered a broken shoulder that he said went untreated for nearly one month.

People who were staying at her home accused her of pushing them into household objects, verbally abusing them and — going against her own no-pet policy — allowing her pet monkey free reign in the house.

According to documents appended to the prosecutors' memo, DHS stripped her license but was unable to corroborate many of the more violent or exploitative claims that clients in her care made about her.

A DHS investigator said two allegations — that she yelled at one of her charges and at times locked them in a van while running errands — were substantiated by other witnesses.

It's unclear whether, after stripping Cody's license, DHS followed up on the foster home after September 1994.

Federal authorities say Cody is still the caretaker for a developmentally disabled man she began caring for in the early 1990s, identified only as M.B. in court documents. He receives Supplemental Security Income checks from the federal government.

The man told investigators that he does not know how much he gets in benefits, that he never sees the checks and never receives money from Cody. Authorities say Cody has blocked further access to M.B.

A witness told investigators that the man was in a care facility in the early 1990s, and the facility would not release him to Cody's care out of concern for his safety, according to court documents.

Cody persuaded the man to marry her, consummated the union with a handshake, and divorced him shortly after arranging his release from the care facility as his wife, prosecutors allege.

Officials began investigating Cody when someone told authorities that she had physically abused Arnold, who had died from abuse or neglect, according to court records.

Prosecutors say Cody enlisted the help of her mother and two friends to bury his body on a property in Yoncalla, about 45 miles south of Eugene, between 1994 and 1996. Arnold would be about 92 years old today.

Two people acknowledged helping bury the body, authorities said. One said Cody tied a rope around Arnold's leg and pulled the body from the bed of a pickup into a shallow grave.

Cody told investigators she concealed Arnold's death because she knew state welfare officials would disapprove of her living conditions and her pet monkey. A witness told investigators that another man in Cody's care died naked in the woman's yard.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ordered Cody held until her July 24 trial.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press