Those close to the Carl DeBrodie case are breathing a little easier.
Five people, including former employees of the assisted living facility where the developmentally disabled DeBrodie lived at the time of his death, were arrested and booked early Tuesday at the Callaway County Jail.
DeBrodie's body was found April 24, 2017, days after he was reported missing and search parties scoured the area.
"I'm glad the ball's started rolling," said Carol Samson, DeBrodie's aunt. "This is the beginning of a healing for the family. It's been a big toll on his mother."
She and Carolyn Summers, DeBrodie's maternal mother, are participants in a civil lawsuit that names as defendants more than one of the arrested suspects.
Samson expressed gratitude toward Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson and Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers, along with the other law enforcement officers involved.
"They've worked hard on this case, and Fulton is very lucky to have these people," she said.
The family's attorney, Rudy Veit, confirmed Tuesday that his clients still are pursuing the civil case.
"I'm glad to see the charges filed because it brings a little more relief to my clients," Veit said. "They feel it's moving forward."
Last week, a new version of the lawsuit revealed details drawn from the criminal investigation into DeBrodie's death, Veit said. The lawsuit alleges Second Chance Homes of Fulton employees forced DeBrodie to fight another resident for entertainment and refused to get medical help for the 31-year-old disabled man when he subsequently became ill. He allegedly was allowed to lie dead in a bathtub at employee Sherry Paulo's house for several days before being removed, according to the lawsuit.
Paulo was among those arrested Tuesday, along with her husband, Anthony R. Flores; son Anthony R.K. Flores; daughter Mary Flores; and Shaina Osborne, the younger Flores' girlfriend. Sealed indictments were issued March 30, but arrests were delayed to avoid interfering with federal investigations, Wilson said.
Paulo and Anthony R. Flores face charges of involuntary manslaughter, among other charges.
"If that's the strongest they can do, I'll take it," Samson said. "It's just that you have to have really (strong) proof on murder. If there was no proof on murder, but manslaughter was there, you take what you can get."
Mary Martin, DeBrodie's one-time legal guardian, also expressed relief after hearing of the arrests.
"I'm thrilled and ready for the other shoe to fall, meaning the federal charges," she said Tuesday. "My husband and I are thrilled. He wishes he was home so we could jump up and down together. It feels like a relief that things are happening."
Nathan Clark, one of DeBrodie's siblings, said he's haunted by the details revealed in the lawsuit. He said he hopes those responsible have a "long, painful time in jail."
"From birth, my brother had it tough, growing up in the way we did, and how we were all separated for not having loving, caring parents that were able to take care of us," Clark said. "The worst part about all of this is so many levels have failed my brother."
Clark also thanked law enforcement officers.
"It's been a long, tedious process to this point," he said. "It saddens me and gives me knots in my stomach that such a heinous crime was committed against my brother."
He said he hopes this case spurs national reform in the care and treatment of people like DeBrodie.
From April 17, 2017, the day DeBrodie was reported missing, until now, many Callaway County residents have been deeply invested in the case. Arrests in other prominent cases have drawn comments such as "What about Carl?"
"For the most part, the community has really had Carl in their hearts and prayers," Samson said. "A few people should be ashamed of themselves, how they've treated the law enforcement and prosecutor."
People who have followed the case expressed jubilation at the arrests and said they hope others involved in DeBrodie's care see consequences.
"I think it's been a long time coming," said Kimmy Bodle, who helped organize early search efforts for DeBrodie. "I think it's going to be extremely well received; from what I've seen so far publicly, people are pretty happy about it."
After helping look for DeBrodie, she and several other searchers formed Missouri Search and Rescue. They've been involved in other searches for missing people since then, she said.
"We don't stop until there's a resolution to it, and that's all because of Carl," she said. "We don't want his legacy to be how he passed away. We want it to be the good that came afterwards."
Bodle added that she thinks she might owe an apology to the Fulton police.
"For a minute, I lost hope, thinking nothing was going to happen," she said.
The FPD and the prosecuting attorney's office previously have been subject to criticism from some locals about the lengthy investigation.
"I know a lot of people kind of doubted," Myers said Tuesday. "It felt good this morning to kick this thing off."
Myers said he was in a command center in the wee hours Tuesday morning while the FPD and Callaway County Sheriff's Office made the five arrests. The operation took over a week to plan and was executed smoothly, he said.
"This is just the beginning, and we've got a long way to go," Myers said. "I think we've put together a very good, solid case. I don't think we'll have have any difficulty with prosecution."
Further arrests and charges could be forthcoming, he added. There also are state and federal criminal investigations into the case, Wilson has said.
"The filing of state criminal charges is the next step in the pursuit of justice for Carl DeBrodie," Wilson said Tuesday in a news release. "As such, I am prohibited by ethical rules from making extrajudicial statements related to the facts and circumstances regarding those charges. No other questions will be answered at this time."
All five suspects are scheduled to be arraigned at the Callaway County Courthouse Monday morning, according to online court records.