Woman Starved to Death

by NBC10/AP | Dec 7, 2004
Woman Starved to Death A 35-year-old New Jersey native with cerebral palsy starved to death while living in squalor with her sister's family, Tennessee authorities said.

Karen Elizabeth Dreager, of Cinnaminson, N.J., weighed about 50 pounds when she died Aug. 31, said forensic pathologist Dr. Cleland C. Blake, the assistant state medical examiner.

Dreager, who was disabled since birth, died from "nutritional and metabolic deficiency of starvation," Blake concluded in his autopsy.

An Anderson County grand jury will consider felony murder charges Tuesday against Dreager's sister Debra A. McMahon, brother-in-law Paul W. McMahon and 18-year-old niece Kimberly McMahon.

A prerecorded message at the McMahons' Oak Ridge home said the telephone had been temporarily disconnected.

"This was one of the most pitiful neglect situations I've ever seen. It's haunted me," Blake told The Knoxville News Sentinel.

"I've done over 6,000 cases (autopsies). I've seen everything. It's as bad as I've ever seen. It made me sick that a human being would be treated like this," he said.

Debra McMahon found her sister dead in a back bedroom where she had lived among clutter and filth, with 50 to 100 scented candles to mask the smell, authorities said. Paul McMahon called 911.

Anderson County Emergency Medical Service Deputy Chief Gary Davis recalled the impression left on two EMS crew members who answered the call.

"The whole house had not been cleaned or sanitized for quite a while," Davis said. "There was dog feces all over the floor throughout the house. (And) in the back bedroom, there were literally walk paths around the room -- it was that cluttered."

The Adult Protection Services Division of the Tennessee Department of Human Services investigated a complaint about Dreager's care in 2002. A caseworker closed the case a year later noting "risks reduced," department spokeswoman Michelle Mowery Johnson said.

Dreager was buried in Cinnaminson.

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Author: NBC10/AP



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