RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The verdict is in for a man accused of elder abuse involving his mother. The jury found 57-year-old Richard Wallace "not guilty". This came in the second day of trial, as Wallace took the stand in his own defense.
Here's what this case boils down to: the commonwealth had to prove Elsie Wallace was unable to care for herself and that Richard Wallace was responsible for her care. In addition to that, they had to show that he knew she needed help, and decided not to give it to her-- that seemed to be the sticking point for this jury.
In a shaky voice, Wallace described being "stumped" when he found his mother dead inside this home they shared. He said he thought his mother was getting better and that her spirits were improving- contradicting testimony from medical experts that the 86-year-old had pressure sores so bad, they were black and contained maggots.
Wallace had an explanation for those maggots- he said Elsie Wallace had slept on the couch since the 70s, and that's the only place she would sleep. He said he tried to replace the couch and the cushions, but both times she refused to let him- and that bugs infesting the couch, got on her.
"She was not going to the hospital, I know that. She wasn't going. He tried. He did the best he could and I don't think he needed to be here," said Richard's half brother, David Wallace.
The commonwealth fired back- saying if Elsie Wallace were a dog or a child, there would be no question about what she wanted or didn't want. They also pointed to testimony from one of their experts saying that help, could have saved her life- and the jury didn't disagree.
"We understand that they weren't completely convinced that Mr. Wallace was capable of willfully neglecting even though they believe that he did neglect her," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kelli Burnett.
"They had absolutely no doubt that he neglected his mother. The question was whether he was capable of doing any better," said Prosecutor Julie McConnell.
When he found his mother's body early on April 18th, Wallace tearfully told the jury he tried to take her to the hospital, but she was too heavy-- so he prayed and called 911.
"It broke his heart, I know. He loved his mom. And he would never do anything to hurt his mom," David said.
Wallace said during his testimony that he cooperated with police because he had nothing to hide and was "trying to help mom to the best of my ability". And today a jury decided, that was enough.
Prosecutors added that elder abuse cases are relatively new in court- this was likely the first jury trial of its kind in the Richmond area. A recent grant has helped train more prosecutors to work on these types of cases.