Someone Get This Poor Woman a GOOD Lawyer

parentsThis is the kind of story that makes for Academy Awards. Kelly Rhodes would be played by Meryl Streep.

Mary Grenia
Mary Grenia

At first glance, the story sounds horrendous: Woman gets 3-15 years in Mich. body-dumping case. I was drawn to the story because at first glance it appeared that Rhodes was running away to be with a boyfriend in Canada and her mother held her back so she killed her, then dumped the body. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real story begins three years ago, when Kelly Rhodes’ 86 year-old mother, Mary Grenia, asks to leave the nursing home and live with Kelly. She agrees. Over the next three years, she cares for her elderly mother at her home in Salem, Ore. with the help of her husband, but he dies and she begins to have a difficult time.

They pack up their possessions and attempt to leave the U.S. and enter Canada where a former boyfriend of Kelly’s lives and has agreed to help. The women are turned away at the Ontario border.

In the meantime, Mary Grenia, has been in declining health. The travel has been difficult for her and she passes away. Kelly doesn’t know what to do so she wraps her mother’s body in blankets and leaves her at a Goodwill store that they had shopped in earlier. I’m not saying that made any sense, but who knows what the women talked about in the truck. Maybe in the final hours of her life, Mary Grenia thanked her daughter for trying and said that it’s time to let go. Perhaps they discussed leaving her body at the Goodwill store, at least that’s the way Hollywood would end the story. More importantly, the women wouldn’t be in that part of the country, attempting to cross the border if it wasn’t for a daughter’s love. Rhodes was trying to get help to care for her 89 year-old mother.

Kelly was  later arrested at the home of relatives in Illinois. She was charged and in November pleaded guilty to “manslaughter, fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse and removing a body without permission of a medical examiner,” even though the medical examiner said there were no signs of foul play.

Kelly Rhodes
Kelly Rhodes

An autopsy showed no signs of trauma, but medical examiner Daniel Spitz said Grenia’s poor health could have been worsened by neglect. She died in the truck,” according to SFGate.com

I’m left shaking my head about the reasoning abilities of both Judge Cynthia Lane and the Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mona Armstrong, both of whom have vilified Rhodes. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Lane said, “Rhodes could have called her brother or put her mother in a home if she was unable to care for her. She didn’t make the right choices.”

Her mother didn’t want to go back to the home. That wasn’t even a choice for Rhodes and we know little about her brother, but I’ll bet it’s safe to say he would put her back in a home and there probably wasn’t a lot of money. Indigent care for an 89 year-old woman is difficult to find at best and frightening to think of. Rhodes’ “choices” were all made with her mother in mind.

Even more enlightening was the Senior Assistant Prosecutor, Mona Armstrong’s comment that the SFGATE.com quoted as saying “Rhodes made choices that were shocking and cold,” adding,”The bottom line is: (Grenia) was not provided that simple dignity she was entitled to at her age and after raising this particular defendant.” 

I think Rhodes did give her mother dignity. She took her in from the nursing home and did her best and never sent her back. For a while, she even did it on her own. Even the medical examiner said that there were no signs of foul play. Was there neglect? I’ll bet both women would show signs of neglect. Do Judge Lane or the prosecutor think that Rhodes was healthy and didn’t neglect herself? Come on, all her worldly possessions, including her mother were in a truck. She took her mother with her. She didn’t leave her in a home and go off to live with her boyfriend.

During her sentencing, Rhodes spoke to the court and spewed words fed to her by the court, “I understand I need to be punished for my poor decisions that were not sensible or logical at all.”  Adding, “I love her and miss her more than I ever could imagine.”

This is a travesty.

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