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Cops: Neglected by family, disabled man weighed 69 pounds at death

Michael J. Mullen / Scranton Times & Tribune via AP

Susan Gensiak, 59, of Taylor, Pa., is accused of starving her 32-year-old son and brother to death.

A 32-year-old Pennsylvania man with Down syndrome was so severely neglected by his family that his body was covered in scabies and he weighed just 69 pounds when he died, police said in charging his mother and two sisters with murder. 

Robert Gensiak had open sores down to the bone at the time of his death March 20. He was taken to the hospital a day earlier because he was only semi-responsive and couldn't stand up. 

Susan Gensiak, 59, of Taylor in northeastern Pennsylvania, and her daughters, Joan, 35, and Rebekah, 24, were charged Wednesday with third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and neglect of care for a dependent person.

All three were sent to Lackawanna Prison, with bail set at $350,000 for Susan Gensiak and $250,000 for her daughters.

Investigators said the suspects told police they were concerned about losing Gensiak's government assistance if they had placed him in a personal care facility, and his mother asked them if she would still receive her son's Social Security check even after his death.

His mother and sisters had little to say at their arraignments or outside court. It wasn't immediately clear whether they had attorneys, and a phone listing was unavailable.

Autopsy photos showed Robert Gensiak's skin was yellow and laced with scabies — a contagious skin infection caused by mites — with open sores all over his body that were so extreme in spots that bone was visible. His few remaining teeth were about to fall out, his head was covered in lice, and there was no food or significant fluid in his stomach, according to an autopsy.

"Robert's entire body was covered in a thick yellow scab-like rash" that "appeared to have cracked in various places, leaving open sores, which had been bleeding and oozing fluid," said an affidavit of probable cause.

The cause of death was sepsis due to the breakdown of his skin, with malnutrition contributing, according to Dr. Gary Ross, who performed the autopsy. Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland ruled the manner of death as homicide due to neglect.

According to court documents, the suspects told authorities that Gensiak had psoriasis, but denied he had any other medical problems and said they were treating his skin condition with over-the-counter creams. They said they could not get him to a doctor because they had no means of transportation.

They eventually called a doctor, who urged them to call an ambulance, according to court documents.

The Associated Press