OLATHE, Kan. -- Sharon McManness was pronounced dead in her Olathe home Wednesday. Now her son, 51-year-old Raymond McManness, is charged with first-degree murder.
He’s the first person to be charged with felony murder in Johnson County under a new Kansas statute on elder abuse.
Trisa Montagne worried about her 75-year-old neighbor at the corner of Cardinal Drive and Cedar Street.
“She brought out mail that she had already opened and was trying to mail it. So I took her back to the house because she didn’t know where she was at. Then she’d wandered all the way down the street here one day," Montagne recalled.
Neighbors said Raymond moved in with the woman a couple years ago to help care for her.
“He really didn’t talk to people much, so he would just say, 'Oh, she’s doing fine. She stays in the house most of the time now.' He’s the one who told me she had dementia," Montagne said.
She hadn’t seen McManness since September and planned to check on her this week. Then cops showed up at the Olathe home Wednesday. Someone called 911 saying she wasn’t breathing.
The next night Raymond McManness was charged with first-degree murder and mistreatment of a dependent adult.
“One of our primary duties as prosecutors is to protect those who can’t protect themselves, and many times it’s not just children but also elderly or dependent adults. So it does concern you when you see these kinds of situations," Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said.
Howe testified in Topeka last year to strengthen elder abuse laws. It was previously defined as infliction of physical injury, unreasonable confinement or unreasonable punishment of the adult.
In 2018, legislators added "taking the personal property or financial resources of a victim for the benefit of the defendant" to the definition and changed the minimum age for "elderly" from 70 to 60.
They also added elder abuse to the list of inherently dangerous felonies for purposes of felony murder.
“If you commit elder abuse and the person dies, that it is felony murder. We think that it’s an important change in the law, and it’s the first time we are able to implement that type of penalty," Howe said.
Details of exactly what happened or didn’t happen in the home remain sealed in the court documents FOX4 has requested.
Montagne, who volunteers with hospice patients, including many with dementia, believes the son may have lost his patience.
“I am very sad. I am in shock, utter shock. I wish he would have got some in-home care for her or reached out to the neighbors where we could have helped," she said.
Howe urges caregivers seek to help. He also neighbors and loved ones to look after the elderly.
“That’s what makes a community, we look out for each other. Little simple things like making a phone call can be the difference between life and death for some people’s situation," Howe said.
Raymond McManness is being held in the Johnson County jail on a $1 million bond.
If you need resources for access to dependent adult care in Kansas, contact the Kansas Department of Aging at 800-432-3535. If you suspect a person who is vulnerable or elderly is being mistreated, call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 800-922-5330.