Ellyn Gottlieb

Ellyn Gottlieb

MEDIA COURTHOUSE — A Haverford woman was sentenced to one year less a day to two years less a day in prison Friday after entering an open guilty plea to neglecting her elderly mother with dementia, resulting in her death.

“This is a sad case, really,” said Assistant District Attorney Erica Parham. “This is a situation where a daughter took it upon herself to be the caretaker for her elderly mother, removing her from … a care facility and bringing her back to her house and, quite frankly, did not take care of her mother.”

Ellyn Gottlieb, 59, formerly of the 200 block of David Drive, also pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking for draining her mother’s bank accounts prior to having her move in.

Gottlieb was arrested June 4 at the residence she shared with her dependent mother, 83-year-old Patricia Gottlieb, prior to her death on March 12, 2018. Gottlieb’s minor son was also removed from the home and placed into the custody of the county's Children and Youth Services.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Gottlieb had her mother’s power of attorney from Aug. 16, 2016, through Jan. 18, 2018, when the Orphan’s Court appointed a new guardian for the victim.

Delaware County Detective Anthony Ruggieri, of the Senior Exploitation Unit, launched a criminal investigation Jan. 29, 2019, following a report of victim abuse from the County of Delaware Services for the Aging.

A COSA representative had gone to the victim’s residence to make a well-being check on Jan. 10, 2018, but was refused entrance by the defendant, according to the affidavit. When COSA returned the next day with Haverford police, Gottlieb again refused COSA, but allowed police inside to check on her mother.

Haverford Officer Matthew DeSanctis found the house “in complete shambles with significant hoarding present,” the affidavit states. “There was an apparent water leak from the second floor and a strong odor of urine and feces throughout the home.”

When DeSanctis spoke to the victim, she rejected medical attention and indicated her daughter was caring for her.

Haverford police and a Narberth ambulance returned to the residence a few days later for lifting assistance from a fall and found the victim to be in general pain. She was transported to Bryn Mawr Hospital with numerous sores and open wounds, significant bruising and a heavy odor of urine and caked-on feces. She was also very hungry.

At that time, Narberth EMS described the living conditions as deplorable, noting hoarding, structural damages, animal and human feces, flies and moths. Gottlieb reportedly indicated that the house was sold at Sheriff’s sale for non-payment of taxes and they would be moving soon, according to the affidavit.

Patricia Gottlieb underwent debridement for a stage-four ulcer on her buttocks Jan. 18, 2018, as well as a psychological assessment that found she had a clear history of dementia and was unable to recall things like medications she was taking or how she got to and from the bathroom.

“She had an inability to make decisions, she didn’t believe that she had wounds, she couldn’t comprehend the risks associated with neglect in the home, she was incapable of consenting on wound care or the risks and benefits associated with the procedure,” the affidavit states.

Ruggieri learned the victim was previously residing at Broomall Manor Nursing Home, where she was thriving and received occupational and physical therapy. Gottlieb removed her mother from that facility and brought her back to the Havertown home in September 2017 after the nursing home attempted to collect $22,972 in outstanding payments, according to the affidavit.

A visit from a home service agency was scheduled for Oct. 2, 2017, under a care discharge plan, but Gottlieb told Haverford police in January 2018 that she never contacted the home-care agency to assist with her mother or performed follow-up medical care for her.

Gottlieb allegedly told Ruggieri that she fed her mother four times a day and provided her medication, and that she always cleaned her mother after she went to the bathroom. Gottlieb also said she was not aware of the ulcers and wounds that had been found her on her mother’s body. At no time did she seek professional assistance for the care of her mother, according to the affidavit.

Gottlieb told authorities in January 2018 that she was unemployed and stayed at home to care for her mother and the house. She said she had not seen her mother’s Social Security check, but her pension and Social Security checks were deposited into Citizens Bank and later, Sovereign Bank.

The court-appointed guardian told investigators the Citizens account was closed in November 2017 because it was overdrawn, and the last known deposit of the victim’s Social Security check was to a Sovereign Bank account in June 2017.

While Gottlieb said she was responsible for paying the victim’s expenses, “the house was in deplorable condition and according to the Delaware County Tax Claim Bureau, it was listed for Upset Sale for the years 2015, 2016, 2017, for non-payment of taxes,” the affidavit states.

Investigators found a total $88,695 in unauthorized purchases had been made from the victim’s accounts between August 2016 and September 2017, including 19 purchases from QVC, 83 purchases from the merchandise bidding site Tophatter and numerous ATM cash withdrawals, all made while the victim was in the Broomall Manor Nursing facility.

Following her discharge from Bryn Mawr Hospital Jan. 26, 2018, Patricia Gottlieb was admitted to Westgate Hill Nursing Facility, where she died March 12. An autopsy determined the cause of death was bacteremia with probable sepsis due to multiple stage 4 ulcers with fistula formation as a result of prolonged periods of sitting in her own urine and feces, according to the affidavit.

Parham noted the house has since been sold in a tax sale and that Gottlieb suffers from a number of mental health issues. She was seeking a sentence of 22 to 36 months for the neglect charge, as well as three to 12 months for the theft, with $110,172 in restitution for the victim’s estate and $6,774 in payment for services rendered to Broomall Manor.

Defense counsel Alex Giribaldi asked for a sentence of 10 months, noting his client took responsibility for her actions with the plea. Gottlieb, appearing via video conferencing from the county prison, did not comment.

Judge Mary Alice Brennan gave Gottlieb credit for time served from June 4, 2019, but ordered that she has to have a residence and mental health treatment plan in place before she can be released. Brennan also approved the restitution recommendations made by Parham.

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