The recent release of Lacey Fletcher crime scene photos depicting the suffering a 36-year-old autistic woman has shocked people around the world.
Allegedly, the images, which show her emaciated and feces-covered body buried deep into a wide hole in the couch, have been described as ‘harrowing evidence’ of Lacey’s personal hell before she died on her parents’ couch in January this year.
The photos reveal the unspeakable extent of Lacey’s suffering, who vanished from public view about 15 years ago.
Here, we will examine the photos in detail, look at the circumstances surrounding Lacey’s horrific ordeal, and explore the legal implications for her parents.
The House of Horror: Lacey’s unimaginable ordeal
Lacey’s parent’s home in the small town of Slaughter, Louisiana, had a neat exterior and was well-maintained.
However, inside, Lacey had been living in unimaginable conditions for over a decade.
The crime scene photos paint a picture of sheer horror as Lacey is seen almost buried up to her shoulders in the wide and deep hole in the sofa that her bony body has worn over the years, rubbing away the cushioning.
She is slumped over on her left side with her right arm across the top half of her emaciated body near her neck.
Her eyes are wide open, staring, and her mouth is open, revealing what appears to be a full set of front teeth. Her legs are pulled up and crossed underneath her.
Shockingly, her face is covered in large and angry red blotches. Excrement is smeared over almost all of her body. It is matted in her hair. It is even inside her ears.
Lacey appears naked apart from a small blue patterned t-shirt, which is pulled up on her chest and does not cover her breasts.
The brown leather sofa that served as her prison is alongside a wall, with a gap of about 18 inches.
Astonishingly, to the couch’s right side is a gray commode and a neat pile of clothes. And to the front, only a few feet away, is a cluttered low black table.
It is strewn with lotion bottles, some talcum powder, a pack of wipes, a nasal spray, a box with a lid that had a child’s photo on it, and other items that make it appear the Fletchers had the resources to clean their stricken only child.
Between the sofa and table are two neatly stacked boxes of DVDs. It is not possible to discern the titles, but some appeared to be childlike from the covers.
Desperately sad photos of Lacey taken later on a physician’s steel table for a forensic examination further reveal the extent of her harrowing and so far unexplained ordeal.
She weighed just 96 lbs when she was discovered dead in the early hours of January 3. Close-ups show the flesh on her buttocks appears to be literally worn or eaten away from the 12 years that she hadn’t moved from the couch.
There are large raw yellow areas where the skin has disappeared. Other back and buttock areas are so blackened it is impossible for a layperson to identify any shape or form.
Part of a video taken by Coroner Dr. Ewell Bickham was also seen by some sources. He was among the first on the horror scene after a sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call – and documented the appalling spectacle.
He is breathing heavily as he moves the camera to the gap behind the sofa and the wall. A large wet patch is on the floor, directly behind Lacey’s body, which he believes is urine.
The phases of abuse: from neglect to severe medical issues
Lacey was suffering from social anxiety and severe autism, which makes it difficult for her to communicate effectively and interact socially.
The last time she saw a physician was when she was 16. Her parents, Clay and Sheila Fletcher, who were known as church-going pillars of their community, became her sole caregivers following a chaotic stay in a mental hospital.
Clearly, the evidence suggests that Lacey’s suffering can be divided into three phases of abuse over the years.
In the first phase of neglect, Lacey was left alone in her parents’ house with minimal care and attention.
For the second phase, which spanned several years, Lacey was confined to the couch, unable to move or change her clothes.
The third and final phase involved the development of acute medical conditions like osteomyelitis (bone infection), ulcers, starvation, and chronic malnutrition.
Dr. Ewell Bickham, who conducted Lacey’s autopsy, says she died from “severe medical neglect, which led to chronic malnutrition, acute starvation, immobility, acute ulcer formation, osteomyelitis which is bone infection which led finally to sepsis.”