Where Is the Support For Vulnerable Americans?

CW: Murder, Abuse, & Neglect:

Prosecutors in Contra Costa County have charged a 54-year-old San Pablo woman with one count of criminal elder abuse concerning the death of a 94-year-old man who drank cleaning fluid at a long-term care facility last year, authorities said Friday. Canoun passed away on August 31, 2022, eight days after he became ill.

According to the prosecution, Lateshia Starling “willfully caused and permitted” Constantine Canoun to be in a “situation in which his health was endangered,” according to portions of the complaint released by Contra Costa District Attorney spokesperson Ted Asregadoo.

According to a coroner’s report provided by the Contra Costa County Coroner’s Office, Canoun died from “a caustic injury to [his] pharynx, esophagus and stomach” that was caused by an “ingestion of alkaline cleaning solution.”

Canoun was not the only resident who died due to the ingestion of a cleaning solution. Gertrude Maxwell and Peter Schroder died after ingesting cleaning products at Atria’s San Mateo facility. Canoun’s son, Dr. Cary Canoun, told KRON4 last year that Atria’s management said his father died after eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Disabled people are also often killed or neglected by people who are supposed to care for them. Parents and caregivers killed approximately 219 disabled people between 2011-2015, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation. This averages out to roughly a murder a week.

Sadly, media coverage often centers around the caregiver rather than the disabled person who was killed. Bonnie Liltz was sentenced to four years in prison by an Illinois Circuit Court judge for drugging and killing her disabled 28-year-old daughter in a failed murder-suicide attempt in 2015. Family and friends pleaded with the judge to be lenient with Liltz’s sentence.

Liltz killed her daughter, who had Cerebral Palsy. Liltz poured a mixture of crushed pills and water into her daughter Courtney’s feeding tube. According to prosecutors, she then took her pill concoction with a glass of wine.

The murder occurred one morning after Lilitz woke up in severe pain due to cancer. In court, she explained she couldn’t bear the thought of Courtney living in a nursing home for the rest of her life. She had briefly spent time in a nursing home while Lilitz underwent surgery and was neglected, according to her mother. “It was with that memory that I felt the only place I knew she would be safe and happy would be in heaven with me,” Liltz told the court in 2016.

In another case, long-term neglect resulted in the death of a disabled teenager. Jordan Brooks, a 17-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy from Oswego County, New York, died in May 2020. Jordan’s mother and stepfather, Lisa and Anthony Waldron, are accused of neglecting him for years. According to authorities, he died of malnourishment and sepsis. His bones were exposed, and he had bedsores. His wheelchair was rusted, urine-stained, and moldy.

There is no excuse for abusing, neglecting, or killing disabled or elderly people. Their lives are valuable, and they deserve to live life to the fullest like anybody else. Everybody deserves to live a life free from abuse and neglect.


Benny, Michael. “Accountability in the Death of Jordan Brooks, Oswego County Teen with Cerebral Palsy.” WSTM, WSTM, 29 Mar. 2022, https://cnycentral.com/news/local/accountability-in-the-death-of-jordan-brooks.

Hurd, Rick. “Woman Charged with Felony Elder Abuse Following Death of 94-Year-Old at Senior Care Facility.” East Bay Times, The Bay Area News Group, 28 Jan. 2023, https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2023/01/27/woman-charged-with-felony-elder-or-dependent-abuse-following-death-of-94-year-old-at-senior-care-facility/.

Nesbitt, Rob. “Atria Assisted Living Worker Charged for Resident’s Death.” KRON4, Nexstar Media Group, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.kron4.com/news/bay-area/atria-assisted-living-worker-charged-for-residents-death/.

Perry, David, et al. “Media Coverage of the Murder of People with Disabilities by Their Caregivers.” Ruderman Family Foundation, Ruderman Family Foundation, 23 Aug. 2017, https://rudermanfoundation.org/white_papers/media-coverage-of-the-murder-of-people-with-disabilities-by-their-caregivers/.

Sgueglia, Kristina. “Mom Sentenced to Jail for Killing Disabled Adopted Daughter.” CNN, Warner Bros., 19 May 2016, https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/18/health/mom-jail-killing-disabled-daughter/index.html.

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