NC woman accused of hiding mother's spring death

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 10:27 PM

A woman was charged Wednesday with keeping the corpse of her elderly mother in their home for months before the body was discovered in the woman's bed.

Amy Blanche Stewart, 47, was charged with concealment of death, which is considered a low-level felony in North Carolina, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said.

"There is no question it was known to the family and should have been communicated to law enforcement," said New Hanover County District Attorney Benjamin R. David. "This is not tolerated under North Carolina law and it is not tolerated by this law enforcement community."

Stewart was charged one day after police said a 911 caller reported that Blanche Matilda Roth, 87, was unconscious and not breathing. Police say she likely died in May, before her 88th birthday in September.

Stewart posted a $1,000 secured bond and was released from jail. New Hanover County Deputy Charles Smith didn't know if Stewart had an attorney. She faces her first court appearance Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

The family did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Smith said caregivers daily had been going in and out of the house on a quiet cul-de-sac. He would not specify if the caregivers were family members but said they were not nurses.

Neighbors said Roth's family had been living in the house with her and continued to go on as normal after Roth's reported death. A woman who answered the door at the home refused to comment.

David said an autopsy was completed but he declined to reveal its results. No one answered the phone at the state medical examiner's office late Wednesday.

David did not rule out additional charges for abetting concealment of a death, a misdemeanor. He also said investigators were looking into Roth's financial records, and Sheriff EdMcMahon said more charges may be forthcoming in relation to the handling of Roth's benefits.

Smith said the residence was very well-kept. He said police hadn't received any calls requesting checks on Roth's welfare.

"They were quiet and stayed to themselves all the time," said neighbor Ray Taylor, 72.

Martin Pedersen, another neighbor, said he had no idea Roth had died.

Pedersen, 55, said four other family members, a married couple and two sons, lived in the house and that a younger son went to school every day. He said Stewart's husband was in a wheelchair, and said Stewart came over to his house a couple of months ago to borrow a set of channel lock pliers because the house's water had been shut off.

Pedersen said the family was nice and the news surprised him. He used to see the elderly woman walking to the mailbox with another family member holding her arm. "They'd be laughing and everything else."

He couldn't recall when he last saw her.

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Patterson reported from Raleigh.