At age 79, Gladys Smallwood was physically abused by her only son, deprived of food, and in the weeks before she was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, isolated to her bedroom in deplorable living conditions, according to one relative.
Shortly after Smallwood died at the hospital Sunday night, her son Wayne Smallwood and his live-in girlfriend Brenda Ivey were arrested at a local funeral home, charged with elder abuse and later, forgery.
Far more serious charges could be pending, officials confirmed.
"The more you hear, it’s so sad," said Beverly Emmett, a great-greatniece of Gladys Smallwood.
Hall County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Strickland confirmed that Gladys Smallwood was neglected and abused for "several months" at her son’s home in the 1300 block of Hazel Street, prior to being admitted to the hospital about six weeks ago.
"The victim had been denied adequate health care and nourishment," Strickland said.
"She was also kept in unsanitary living conditions."
While she was in the hospital, Larry Smallwood and Ivey cashed two of her Social Security checks for a total of $1,200, Strickland said. Smallwood, who was charged with forgery on Thursday, is suspected of forging his mother’s signature on the checks, Strickland said.
Emmett said Larry Smallwood had moved his mother around to various locations in the past year, and some relatives were unsure where she was living when she was taken by ambulance from the home, suffering from symptoms of malnutrition.
Emmett said she had not seen Gladys Smallwood in close to a year.
"Larry would dodge the whole family and not let us know where she was," she said.
Emmett said Gladys Smallwood was found near death, bedridden in soiled sheets. She was treated at the hospital for what authorities called a "serious infection," without specifying.
Authorities said Larry Smallwood called the ambulance to the house.
Ivey, 46, had earlier been charged with simple battery in connection with a July incident in which she struck Gladys Smallwood in the face during a dispute over food, Strickland said.
Ivey and Larry Smallwood, 52, were charged Monday with felony cruelty to a person older than 65. Both remain in the Hall County jail without bond.
Hall County Coroner Marion Merck said autopsy results are pending. An autopsy was performed by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner after investigators determined the death was suspicious, Merck confirmed.
"We knew at the time of death that if anything happened, there was going to be an autopsy," Merck said.
Sheriff’s investigators are conferring with District Attorney Lee Darragh’s office on how to proceed with additional charges, Strickland said.
"This is an active and continuing investigation," he said. "Additional charges are pending."
Darragh did not immediately return a phone message Thursday night seeking comment.
Emmett said she offered for Gladys Smallwood to live with her, but Smallwood declined.
"It’s like Larry had something over her," Emmett said. "Like she did whatever Larry said."