PORT HURON (WWJ/AP) – An Oregon woman was sentenced Friday to serve 3 to 15 years in prison for dumping the body of her elderly mother outside a Michigan thrift store.
“I understand I need to be punished for my poor decisions that were not sensible or logical at all,” Kelly Rhodes said before her sentencing in St. Clair County Circuit Court.
The 49-year-old from Salem, Ore., pleaded guilty in November to manslaughter, fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse and removing a body without permission of a medical examiner.
The corpse of Rhodes’ mother, Mary Grenia, 89, was found wrapped in blankets behind a Goodwill store near Port Huron in March.
“I love her and miss her more than I ever could imagine,” Rhodes said about her mother, who died a few days after she and Rhodes were turned away while trying to enter Ontario, Canada, with a truck full of possessions.
Graham Sweeney of Hamilton, Ontario, told the Times Herald of Port Huron that Rhodes was traveling to marry him in Canada when her mother died. He said he received a call from Rhodes on March 9 when she woke up after sleeping in her vehicle and found her mother dead.
Rhodes allegedly told Sweeney she was dropping off furniture at the Goodwill store when someone she met in the area called a person to cremate the body. Sweeney said Rhodes paid that person $200. “She was conned,” he said.
Authorities said Grenia’s body was hidden for more than a week under snow and blankets outside of the thrift store. She was identified using X-ray comparison from medical records.
An autopsy revealed heart and lung disease, but showed no signs of trauma. Medical examiner Daniel Spitz said Grenia’s poor health could have been worsened by neglect.
Judge Cynthia Lane said Rhodes could have called her brother or put her mother in a home if she was unable to care for her. Instead, the judge said, “She didn’t make the right choices.”
Defense lawyer Sharon Parrish said Rhodes took her mother out of a nursing home three years ago at her request. Rhodes was stressed out from caring for her and was looking for support from a former boyfriend after her husband died, Parrish said.
Senior assistant prosecutor Mona Armstrong said Rhodes made choices that were shocking and cold.
“The bottom line is: (Grenia) was not provided that simple dignity she was entitled to at her age and after raising this particular defendant,” Armstrong said.
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