CORUNNA, Mich. — A Michigan woman who lived in Kentucky for several years kept her disabled adult sister locked in a closet for six or seven years with little food, water or clothing and only a bucket for urination, authorities said Friday.
Candy Lawson, 44, of Corunna is charged with unlawful imprisonment, vulnerable adult abuse and embezzlement from a vulnerable adult, Shiawassee County's chief assistant prosecutor, Daniel Nees, told The Associated Press. Court records said she posted bond after an initial hearing Thursday.
A not-guilty plea was entered on her behalf. District court officials in Corunna, 65 miles northwest of Detroit, said Friday that Lawson didn't yet have a lawyer on record.
Police visited Lawson's home July 9 for a welfare check based on an anonymous tip and found the 42-year-old sister, who has "cognitive and physical impairments," locked in a closet, suffering from malnourishment and dehydration, Nees said. Police said she was hospitalized for about a week before being placed in protective custody.
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"When I saw the victim, ... I've been in police for 35 years and never seen an adult abuse case of that type," Corunna Police Chief Nick Chiros said.
Chiros said a handyman reported finding the woman locked up. Police determined that she had lived in confinement for about a month in Corunna, and before that in the Shiawassee County community of Laingsburg and in Kentucky, the newspaper reported.
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said his department was opening an investigation into her time in Kentucky.
"We're looking for any information that might throw up a red flag," Melton said.
Lawson lived in Franklin County on St. Johns Road, for several years, Melton said.
Other than a few traffic violations, Lawson had no major run-ins with the law during her time there, Melton said.
"Nothing that happened would have led us to believe she was doing the things she is accused of now," he said.
Sheriff's deputies had entered Lawson's home a few times, once when her brother died of a heart attack in 2009. They never saw a sign of her sister, Melton said.
Lawson also owned Candy's Body Art, a tattoo shop in Frankfort.
A court conference is scheduled for Aug. 26, the court said, and a hearing to determine whether the case goes to trial has been set for Sept. 1, but that could be delayed. The unlawful imprisonment and vulnerable adult abuse charges both are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The embezzlement charge, which Nees said stems from public benefits that should have gone to the disabled sister, could lead to a five-year sentence.
Lawson's adult daughter and her boyfriend, along with their two children, also lived at the Corunna home, Chiros said. Child Protective Services was investigating whether to remove the children, but police and prosecutors said no one else was expected to face charges.