Pierce County prosecutors said they do not plan to file criminal charges against a pair of caregivers arrested by sheriff’s detectives Wednesday for investigation of kidnapping and mistreatment of four vulnerable adults found at a Tacoma hotel.
Adam Faber, a spokesperson for prosecuting attorney Mary Robnett, said the caregivers have been ordered released from jail pending further investigation. However, at this point it does not appear there is evidence to support the charges, he said.
The prosecuting attorney’s office said the caregivers were state contractors and that one of them appears to be a vulnerable adult as well. Faber said it appears the caregivers attempted to contact the Department of Social and Health Services for help with the four people they were caring for but were turned away.
“A kidnapping charge is problematic because the main caregiver, who was clearly in distress, tried to turn the adults in her care over to the state when she went to DSHS seeking help,” Faber said. “A criminal mistreatment charge requires evidence that someone was deprived the necessities of life, which the investigation at this point has not shown.”
“It is regrettable that a caregiver seeking help from DSHS was denied it, and that fact makes proving a case like this beyond a reasonable doubt problematic,” he said. “We are gratified to know these vulnerable adults are safe and are in new placements.”
The four vulnerable adults, all living in a group home, were taken into protective custody after they said they had been denied showers and other basic hygiene and had been living much of the past two days in a van, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Darren Moss said detectives did not believe the vulnerable adults had given their consent to leave the home and drive around, and that detectives opted to arrest the caregivers at that point.
On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department reported that the vulnerable adults, two of whom are nonverbal, were missing. They had last been seen Monday afternoon at the Department of Social and Health Services office in Tacoma, when one of the caregivers reportedly expressed concern for her safety and the safety of the adults in her care, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The News Tribune reported that the caregivers, who are sisters, asked for help, but Department of Social and Health Services staff refused and told the caregivers they had to uphold their contract.
Chris Wright, a spokesperson for the department, said any report that the agency refused to help the caregivers is not accurate.
“We began the process of finding placements for the clients in a different adult family home after the caregivers reported feeling unsafe at theirs Monday,” Wright said earlier. However, he said the caregivers left with the vulnerable adults without leaving any contact information.