EDMONDS — An Edmonds man insisted he was honoring his wife’s wishes by not bringing her to a doctor, even as she showed signs of dementia, had trouble moving or eating, and began soiling herself.
By then it was too late. Three days later, the 77-year-old woman died from dehydration, malnourishment and sepsis that was likely caused by a severe skin infection, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. In her final days, at 5 feet tall, she weighed just 65 pounds.
Andrew Philip Thomas, 59, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal mistreatment. He was sentenced Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court, though he won’t see any jail time. Instead, he’ll get one year of probation and will be assessed a mandatory $500 victim penalty fee.
“This is obviously an unusual situation,” Judge David Kurtz said.
Thomas originally was charged with the offense in the second degree, a felony, but that eventually was downgraded to a third-degree gross misdemeanor.
Under state law, a criminal mistreatment charge means that someone is accused of depriving a dependent person of the basic necessities of life, to the point of causing harm.
After looking at the facts and taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic, deputy prosecutor Julie Mohr said she didn’t see any reason why Thomas should have to see jail time.
Talking to the court on Friday, Thomas said he’s had time to reflect on the care of his wife.
“I didn’t get her to a hospital when that typically would happen, and I’m sorry,” he said. “I wish she were here to tell her that.”
Thomas met his wife, Maureen “June” Thomas, in 1989 and they married soon after, according to court papers. She was his first wife. He was her fourth husband. “It was a good marriage,” defense attorney James Dixon wrote in court documents. They both held the same distrust of the medical industry and conventional Western medicine.
June made it clear early on, both to her husband and to her two adult children from a previous marriage, that she didn’t want to be taken to a hospital or be treated by a medical doctor, Dixon wrote. She wanted to be cared for at home.
That became increasingly difficult as she began showing symptoms of dementia in 2016.
On March 25, 2018, medics found Thomas’ wife emaciated, unconscious and covered with bed sores. They took her to Swedish Medical Center Edmonds, where an investigator with Adult Protective Services referred the case to an Edmonds detective.
At the hospital, Thomas talked to the detective for an hour and 20 minutes, describing in detail how he tried to care for his wife by himself. Thomas said he and his wife lived alone. She had a long history of blood clots in her legs, as well as thyroid problems. They moved around — from Idaho to Texas to Oregon to Edmonds — and saw only homeopathic doctors. They hadn’t seen a medical doctor in at least a decade, Thomas said, according to charging papers.
They met their most recent homeopathic doctor in Oregon. In the last two years of June’s life, they saw him mostly by video conference. During those appointments, the doctor noted June “looked very weak and very frail,” according to charging papers. The doctor said he regretted not encouraging Thomas to seek more traditional care for his wife.
Eventually, Thomas stopped taking his wife outside because it was too difficult to get her back home, according to court documents. He used a rolling swivel chair to move her from the living room to the bathroom. She often soiled herself, so he bought absorbent pads to put underneath her on the couch. Thomas’ employer allowed him to take a couple hours off work in the middle of the day so he could tend to his wife.
At his house, Thomas told the detective they didn’t have a bed. For years they slept on cots, couches or chairs, he reportedly said.
A friend told the detective that she emailed Thomas repeatedly, begging him to do something, according to charging papers. She reportedly asked Thomas as early as July 2017 to gain guardianship over his wife and find the medical attention she needed. The friend noted June’s increasing dependence on her husband, her declining mental capacity and her social isolation.
Thomas emailed back, thanking the woman for being such a good friend. He wrote that he hadn’t done anything to gain guardianship because he “in some ways was not looking forward to it,” according to charging papers.
In June’s last weeks, Thomas fed her smoothies, using a straw. When that stopped working, he tried to use a plunger syringe to feed her, though she wouldn’t swallow most of the food.
As much as she deteriorated, Thomas still made no attempt to take her to a medical doctor, a clinic or a hospital, prosecutors alleged.
He reportedly admitted he was aware of a worsening skin infection for at least a week but didn’t seek treatment.
In his guilty plea, Thomas maintained he did the best he could to take care of his wife but acknowledged a hospital could have better met her basic needs, such as nutrition and hygiene.
“My wife had a strong desire to avoid hospitals, nursing homes, and anything associated with western medicine,” he wrote. “I continued to honor this request even after she developed dementia and was dependent upon me.”
At his sentencing, June’s two children testified in defense of Thomas, saying he was doing what their mother always wanted.
“My mother was not a typical person,” June’s daughter said. “She was eccentric. She was strong-willed. She was hilarious at times.”
“Andy had the ability to adapt to my mom,” she said.