Federal prosecutors want Fulton resident Sherry Paulo to spend 17 years in prison for her role in covering up the death of Carl DeBrodie.
That's the maximum amount of time allowable under a plea agreement she accepted in November. If the federal court in the Western District of Missouri accepts the recommendation, Paulo would be 72 years old at the time of her release and would be under supervision until age 77. Paulo's sentencing is set for Tuesday.
DeBrodie was 31 years old when his remains were found encased in concrete in a Fulton storage unit in April 2017, about a week after he was reported missing. An investigation determined he had actually died in 2016. He was a developmentally disabled resident of Second Chance Homes of Fulton, a care facility on Claymine Drive.
Four members of Paulo's family have now pleaded guilty to involvement in covering up DeBrodie's death: Paulo; her husband, Anthony Flores; their daughter, Mary K. Paulo; and their son, Anthony R.K. Flores. All four family members worked at Second Chance.
But court documents position Sherry Paulo — who pleaded guilty in November to one count of willfully failing to provide necessary medical care to DeBrodie resulting in injuries which eventually led to his death and one count of health care fraud arising from her efforts to hide DeBrodie's death — as the ringleader.
"Mirroring their internal family structure, in which Defendant (Sherry) Paulo was reportedly a controlling matriarch, each of these family members followed Paulo's orders in their professional capacities, as well," Lucinda Woolery, of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri, wrote in a memo filed Aug. 21.
Woolery said DeBrodie moved to Second Chance Homes in 2008. In 2014, when he began struggling with his weight, Sherry Paulo took him to a doctor, who prescribed him meal supplements. She ceased giving him the supplements in 2015 and also withheld his prescribed antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications. Between December 2015 and the time of DeBrodie's death, she never took him to a doctor, Woolery wrote — once, she even ordered Mary Paulo to pass off a fellow Second Chance Homes resident as DeBrodie at a doctor's appointment.
Paulo told police she didn't seek medical attention for Debrodie because she was afraid "she was going to get blamed for not taking care of him right," according to a summary of an interview between Sherry Paulo and the Fulton Police Department.
Between 2015 and September 2016, Paulo would sometimes bring DeBrodie and one of his housemates to her personal home, where she would confine them to the unfinished basement, Woolery wrote. By September 2016, DeBrodie's condition was so bad "he would lie in bed howling;" when a fellow Second Chance Homes resident complained about the noise, Paulo moved him to the family home permanently.
DeBrodie spent his last days in the basement, in a "small dark (room), with no access to running water, sunlight, or fresh air" that Anthony Flores described as a "jail cell," according to the memo. His condition continued deteriorating: He couldn't swallow and refused to eat. By the end of the month, he was dead.
Paulo and her husband told differing — but parallel — stories to police about how DeBrodie actually died.
Paulo and her husband claimed to have been home without the other and to have heard DeBrodie howling or screaming in the basement. Separately, they claimed to have enlisted DeBrodie's housemate to help carry him to an upstairs bathroom and place him under running water. Paulo said she watched DeBrodie stop breathing. Despite training in CPR and first aid, she did not attempt to resuscitate him, she told police. Nor did she — or Flores — seek medical help for DeBrodie.
Instead, the pair left DeBrodie in the bathtub until the smell grew too strong. In her plea agreement, Mary Paulo admitted to helping Sherry Paulo place DeBrodie into a trash can. The trash can was then loaded into a wooden crate Flores built and filled with concrete. Sherry Paulo, her husband and their son, Anthony R.K. Flores, took the crate to a storage unit, Anthony R.K. Flores admitted in his own plea agreement.
The Callaway County medical examiner's office was unable to determine an exact cause of death due to DeBrodie's advanced decomposition. A CCME report included with the memo states, "Based on the circumstances in which the body was found and evidence of perimortem and previous trauma, the manner of death is consistent with homicide."
Woolery said Sherry Paulo spent the months between September and April lying about DeBrodie's whereabouts.
Paulo filled daily progress reports with falsified details: "(DeBrodie) ate plenty of food and had 2 extra helpings of hot dogs and macaroni salad." She bought groceries with DeBrodie's Electronic Benefits Transfer card. She made up doctor's visits. She told people DeBrodie was with other caretakers. When county inspectors tried to check in on DeBrodie, she had his housemate lie down in DeBrodie's bed. And she submitted false Medicaid claims to the tune of $106,795, Woolery wrote.
In April 2017, when Second Chance Homes was about to be taken over by another company, Paulo reported DeBrodie missing but claimed she'd seen him April 17. Paulo instructed her husband, her son, his girlfriend, Shaina Osborne, and her daughter to lie to the police as well, claiming DeBrodie had attended their family Easter celebration April 16, 2017.
Ultimately, an interview with DeBrodie's housemate — also a developmentally disabled man — was what led police to DeBrodie's body, the sentencing memo states.
"Like her other attempts to conceal and avoid responsibility for her crimes, Paulo's disclosures came only when it was inevitable that her misdeeds would be discovered," Woolery wrote.
Woolery claims Paulo used her authority as the family matriarch and Second Chance Homes manager to coordinate the family's actions while depriving DeBrodie of care and later covering up his death. Paulo had the most familiarity with DeBrodie's medical conditions, mental health status and required medication.
"From beginning to end, Defendant Paulo played a central role in bringing about, and covering up, (DeBrodie's) decline and eventual death," Woolery wrote.
And, Woolery said, Paulo has shown "little remorse" for the victim of her admitted crimes.
"Paulo's treatment of (DeBrodie) exposed how she viewed him: as less than human; as someone whom she could allow to languish and then discard in a trash can," Woolery wrote. "Paulo acted from a position of near-absolute power over a victim who could neither advocate nor care for himself. She controlled what he ate, what medications he took, and whether he received treatment from a doctor."
The sentencing memorandum includes a victim impact statement from DeBrodie's aunt, Carol Samson.
"I am grateful to be speaking at this sentencing because Carl's mother and his step-father (my brother) have both passed away this year and are not here to have a voice," Samson wrote. "I feel like in a way, I am their voice and of course, Carl's voice too."
She said the news of DeBrodie's death affected her so severely she had to seek medical treatment for anxiety and insomnia.
"Over the last three years, I have continued to think of Carl a lot, and while my sadness and grief have improved because I know that people are being held accountable, it still affects me from time to time," Samson added. "At sentencing, I can only hope and would like to ask the court that all of the defendants in this case receive the maximum sentences that they can receive under the plea agreement and that they not be given credit for time served. I don't think they should ever have access to vulnerable people again and while incarcerated should not receive special accommodations."
Paulo's attorney, Christopher Slusher, also filed a sentencing memorandum Tuesday; his is sealed.
Anthony Flores accepted a plea deal in November; his sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday. However, the sentencing memorandum Woolery filed in that case is currently sealed, as is a memo filed by Flores' lawyer. His plea agreement sets a range of 11 years and five months to 15 years and eight months.