VALLEY, Ala. (WRBL) – A disturbing, suspected case of elder abuse is unfolding in Valley as the husband and daughter of a 72-year-old woman face charges associated with her death in an alleged house of horrors investigation. Police say an autopsy concluded the woman died from neglect after they discovered her lying in filth, surrounded by feces and urine, covered in cockroaches feeding on her flesh.
The investigation into the death of 72-year-old Janice Hawkins began on March 16 when her husband, 74-year-old Walter Hawkins, called the police requesting a coroner to come to their home along 24th Avenue in Valley, Alabama. Chief Mike Reynolds said when police arrived, Walter argued with them about responding.
“He wanted to argue when our officers arrived, saying he didn’t need police; he needed the coroner. So we explained this was our protocol to him,” said Chief Reynolds.
Chief Reynolds said when officers did get inside the home, they immediately called the District Attorney’s Office. When an assistant district attorney arrived on the scene, they ordered an autopsy.
“Immediately, they knew something wasn’t right. The home was very filthy, with feces and cat urine, cockroaches all over the place, and they had to make a trail to get to her. Even when they took her to the medical examiner’s office when they began prepping her for an autopsy, cockroaches were coming out of her clothing at the ME’s office,” said Reynolds.
On May 4, the completed autopsy reported Hawkins was severely malnourished, dehydrated, and died in deplorable living conditions and filthy clothing. Her cause of death was determined to be due to a Failure to Thrive, associated with diabetes complications.
“She weighed less than 100 pounds at the time of her death, her eyes sunk in, prominent ribs, and severely dehydrated. Our investigators kept digging and found out the last time she had been to a doctor was in 2019. Her prescriptions, of which she had been prescribed nine medications, had not been refilled since 2018,” said Chief Reynolds.
Hawkins’ 45-year-old daughter Christy Lee Hawkins, who lived with her parents, is charged with Elderly Abuse and Neglect. In addition, Hawkins’ husband Walter is charged with Manslaughter, Elderly Abuse, and Neglect. This is not Walter’s first arrest.
“Since 2014, we have answered over 40 calls to that residence, with the majority being domestic violence. As a result, he has been arrested several times for domestic violence,” said Chief Reynolds.
Father and daughter remain behind bars, awaiting a bond hearing. News 3 will keep you updated on the judicial process.
Meanwhile, investigators say the house is considered a biohazard. As a result, the city of Valley is in the process of condemning the home so it can be destroyed.
Investigators are urging everyone in the community to please report suspected abuse.