On November 18th, 1985, Carl Lee Debrodie was born in Columbia, Missouri. His home life was turbulent from the beginning. He lost his father, and his mother was “severely, intellectually, psychologically, socially, and occupationally impaired” according to court records (Hoover, 2020). Both of Carl’s parents were abusive during his childhood. Carl himself suffered from a severe form of autism and intellectual disabilities. He was unable to read, write, or speak. Carl relied on others for help, but instead he was mistreated, abused, and eventually murdered.
Carl had severe disabilities but was a happy person from the time he was a little kid. He loved dogs, baseball, fishing, and riding on the lawnmower or go-karts (Hoover, 2020). He enjoyed the simple things in life, like watching fire trucks and being outside. He liked to watch television, especially Walker Texas Ranger. His home life, however, led to additional challenges for this beautiful spirit.
At some point, Carl and his two siblings were removed from their mother’s care after she was found to be an unfit parent. They were placed in separate foster homes and had little contact after that. Carl did, however, find a family. When he was ten years old, he formed a bond with his bus driver, Mary Martin. Mary felt drawn to Carl immediately after seeing his beautiful smile. She soon signed up to be his sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program.
After forming a strong bond with Carl, Mary took him into her home. Carl thrived at Mary’s home in rural Callaway County, Missouri. According to Mary, the young teenager played outside, rode horses, and just enjoyed his life despite his limitations. “We had a blast, he loved us. We loved him. It was a family, just like anybody else’s. He was our child” (Bogan, 2018). Mary went on to say “He was not dumb. He understood everything that you said to him. Doesn’t mean he listened, but he understood” (Bogan, 2018).
Mary Martin became Carl’s guardian and he stayed with her even into adulthood. At eighteen, however, he was considered his own legal guardian. When Carl turned twenty-one, he moved into Brady Independent Living Community. The facility was designed to help residents live more independently. Carl worked at Kingdom Projects, a non-profit workshop providing job options for those with disabilities (Hoover, 2020). Carl seemed to be doing fine until he moved back in with his biological mother.
Carl did not thrive in his mother’s home and was assigned a state appointed guardian. His state appointed guardian testified that he was smoking cigarettes and pacing. He seemed nervous. By 2010, he was no longer with his mother and moved into a facility in Millersburg called Second Chance Homes. This home was similar to Brady Independent Living Community in that it was focused on helping adults with disabilities live independently and successfully.
Mary Martin, meanwhile, had petitioned the courts to be named Carl’s legal guardian. Mary was concerned because Carl was no longer able to use the bathroom independently and was often incontinent. She also felt he was being overmedicated and seemed sad. His state appointed guardian said that Carl was doing great at Second Chance. He had stopped smoking and enjoyed the numerous activities at the facility.
When Carl came to visit the Martin family over the holidays, Mary noticed Carl was covered in bruises. Mary claims she called the abuse hotline, but the Missouri Department of Social Services denies receiving any complaints (Hoover, 2020). Mary took photos and showed them to the state guardian. His guardian stated that the bruises were a result of Carl “bumping into things” (Hoover, 2020). Unfortunately, Carl was not able to verbalize the source of the bruising. The facility, at some point, said it was possible another resident had hit Carl.
When Mary Martin went to court for guardianship, the state appointed guardian opposed the transition. She testified that Carl had made tremendous progress in the Second Chance home saying, “Carl is happy, healthy, robust, cozy, and comfortable” (Hoover, 2020). She further claimed that the Martin’s home was chaotic and not a stable environment for Carl. Mary’s petition for guardianship was denied in April of 2010.
Mary once again petitioned for custody in 2011. He had a different state appointed guardian this time who found the Martin’s home to be beneficial to Carl. She said he felt comfortable there, enjoyed the family, had access to the entire house, played with the dogs, and seemed genuinely happy. At the end of her visit, Carl asked Mr. Martin when he could come live there forever. His appointed guardian gave the Martins hope that Carl would one day call their house his home.
Six months later, however, things changed dramatically. A new court appointed guardian was assigned to Carl and visited him at Second Chance. The guardian noticed two employees remained present during every interaction with Carl, Sherry Paulo and Vickie Cole. When the guardian broached the idea of him living with the Martin family, he grew visibly upset. She said he was “distraught, crying, screaming, and shaking his head no” (Hoover, 2020). In May of 2012, Mary Martin’s petition was denied for two reasons. First, Carl was unable to give his own consent to being adopted. Second, the state guardian declined to give permission given his behavior at Second Chance.
Following the second denial of Mary’s petition to adopt Carl, the young man was moved to a different Second Chance home in Fulton, Missouri. Mary noticed that her access to Carl was becoming increasingly limited by employees at Second Chance. For that reason, Mary wasn’t aware of Carl’s deteriorating condition. His case manager for Callaway County Special Services was expected to check on him monthly. Carl was supposed to be evaluated by a county nurse monthly. The Missouri Department of Mental Health was supposed to auditing Second Chance at minimum of very two years. None of this happened the way it was supposed to.
The case manager for Callaway County later admitted to falsifying her visit reports. She wasn’t monitoring Carl’s well-being at all. The nurse also admitted to falsifying his records. They both cited high caseloads as excuses for failing to monitor Carl DeBrodie. The inspections by the Missouri Department of Mental Health did not include the proper monitoring of treatment at Second Chance and failed to identify a rapid decline in Carl DeBrodie’s condition.
Carl was not thriving in Second Chance Homes. By 2014, he started to lose weight. One of his caregivers at Second Chance sought medical care for him. His doctor prescribed a nutritional supplement to help the young man maintain his weight. His care manager, Sherry Paulo, was responsible for providing him all medications and supplements. However, she was falsifying notes in Carl’s record, claiming he was seeing his multiple doctors regularly. She had stopped taking him to the doctors’ offices, however.
Paulo’s husband, Anthony Flores, was an employee at Second Chance as well, and assisted in the day-to-day care of Carl DeBrodie. He noticed Carl had become incontinent, was not getting out of bed regularly, and had declining mobility (Hoover, 2020). Sherry and Anthony both identified Carl’s declining health but failed to seek care for him. Instead, they started to bring him home with them.
What exactly was happening at Paulo and Flores’ home is unknown, but it is believed that the couple was subjecting Carl to manual labor in their home. He was made to sleep in their unfinished basement on the floor. It is also believed that Paulo and Flores’ made Carl and other intellectually challenged residents fight each other for their amusement. This is perhaps why Carl was covered in bruises and suffered at least six broken ribs. Little else is known about Carl’s life at Second Chance.
In spring of 2017, Second Chance homes was being purchased by another provider of adult supportive living. The new owners were set to take over the facility April 17th, 2017. Ironically, that same morning employees from Second Chance called the police and reported thirty-one-year-old Carl DeBrodie missing. Anthony Flores and Sherry Paulo reported they had last seen Carl at 6:30 am that morning wearing blue jeans, a white and orange striped polo, white New Balance shoes, and a black leather jacket. The community began to search for Carl.
During the investigation, another intellectually disabled resident confessed to killing Carl with a hammer, but that was later proven to be a false confession. Police started to suspect Paulo and Flores were responsible for Carl’s disappearance. They searched their home but found no evidence of a crime. They decided to search their storage locker, where they found a large wooden crate filled with concrete. They took this crate to the police department where Sherry Paulo was being interviewed. Once she saw it, her demeanor suddenly changed.
Inside the concrete were the decomposed remains of Carl Lee DeBrodie. The body was so decomposed that a cause of death was unable to be determined (Fulton Sun, 2020). Sherry Paulo and Anthony Flores finally explained what happened to Carl. The date of his death was unknown but was approximately six months prior to the caregivers reporting him missing. Carl was at the couple’s home in his usual basement accommodations when Flores heard noises.
According to court records, Paulo and Flores observed Carl convulsing on the basement floor. DeBrodie suffered “an acute medical emergency” (Fulton Sun, 2020). Paulo and Flores watched as Carl convulsed and stopped breathing. They did nothing to help him and watched him die on their basement floor. Then they put him in the bathtub in their home, where he would lay for three to four days. Eventually, they placed him in a trash bin to conceal the odor of decomposition. Finally, they put the trash bin in the wooden crate and filled it with concrete. The bin was placed in Sherry Paulo’s storage locker until it was discovered the following spring.
The investigation continued and uncovered Medicaid fraud on Sherry Paulo’s part. She submitted false claims for Carl after his death, collecting over $100,000 fraudulently. Sherry Paulo (pictured) was determined to be the ringleader in this crime. “My impression of Ms. Paulo- she ran the show. If she told her family to do something, they did it” prosecuting attorney Chris Wilson said (Fulton Sun, 2020). The couple, two of their children who worked at the facility, and other staff members were all facing charges related to Carl DeBrodie’s death.
Mary Paulo, Anthony Flores Jr., and Shaina Osbourne were all charged with making false reports in connection with the case. Sherry Paulo and Anthony Flores were charged with felony client neglect or abuse in a mental health facility, involuntary manslaughter, and abandonment of a corpse (Bogan, 2018). Before state charges could proceed, however, federal investigators wanted to investigate for federal crimes. “Wilson, DeBrodie’s family, and the Department of Justice conferred and decided pursuing the federal charge for Sherry Paulo and Anthony Flores would be more likely to result in a longer prison sentence than pursuing state charges such as manslaughter” (Bogan, 2018).
Anthony Flores Jr, the couple’s son, plead guilty to falsification of records in the federal investigation and was sentenced to three years of probation. The judge believed he was not aware of his parents’ actions. He was also given eight months for filing a false report. His girlfriend, Shaina Osborne plead guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to thirty days in jail, but the sentenced was suspected and she was ordered to serve two years of probation instead. Mary Paulo, the couple’s daughter, plead guilty to falsification of a document with intent to obstruct a federal investigation. Her sentence is unknown.
On November 22nd, 2019, Sherry Paulo and Anthony Flores (pictured) pled guilty to one count of willfully failing to provide necessary medical care to Carl, resulting in injury and death. Paulo also plead guilty to one count of healthcare fraud. On September 1st, 2020, Sherry Paulo was sentenced to 210 months in federal prison, approximately seventeen and a half years (Department of Justice, 2020). Anthony Flores was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison, approximately fifteen and a half years (Department of Justice, 2020).
“Our caregivers have a moral as well as legal obligation to treat those they are entrusted to care for with respect and protect them from abuse”, said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband following the sentencing. “These former caregivers committed horrendous cirmes against a patient with a developmental disability, while raiding vital Medicaid funds to prop up their alibis”, said Curt Muller, Special Agent in charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Department of Justice, 2020).
Melissa DeLap plead guilty in 2018 to health care fraud. She was the nurse contracted to provide services to Carl at Second Chance Homes and signed the monthly summaries and face-to-face evaluations for Carl despite not completing the assessments or providing any care (Department of Justice, 2020). Tiffany Keipp, DeBrodie’s support coordinator through Callaway County Special Services was charged for forgery in Missouri after admitting to falsification of her records. Her sentence is unknown. “The Missouri Coalition for Quality Care called for a review of the Department of Mental Health and the State of Missouri was ordered to pay more than one million dollars to settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit” (Hoover, 2020).
Mary Martin was devastated by Carl’s death but is working to provide support and advocate for people with disabilities. She formed a non-profit called Carl’s Helping Hands. Carl’s biological mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. At Paulo’s sentencing, Mary Martin said “All Carl ever wanted was approval and coleslaw” (Sitter, 2020). Records show that Carl hadn’t had his prescriptions filled, was malnourished, and subjected to manual labor and deplorable living conditions. The sentences in this case certainly do not seem to fit the crimes committed against Carl by those entrusted with his care.
Bogan, J. (2018) System Failure. St. Louis Post Dispatch. 01 Jul 2018