Murder by Neglect – the deaths of Lacey Fletcher and Valerie Wallach

Lacey was born Lacey Ellen Fletcher on November 25, 1985.  She grew up in Slaughter, Louisiana and her parents were Clay and Sheila Fletcher. I believe that Lacey was an only child.

Lacey’s family lived in their home on Tom Drive for almost her entire life.  I cannot find any sale records for it and public records say they have lived there since at least 1995.  I believe Lacey was around 9 years old when they moved there.

It is a small home, set on 3.64 acres.  This is a 1755 square foot, single family home. This home is located at 2568 Tom Dr, Slaughter, LA 70777.

Lacey’s parents have been described as churchgoing “pillars of the community”.  Sheila worked as a police and court clerk in Baker, Louisiana.  Most recently, she worked as the assistant to the city prosecutor in Zachary, according to her LinkedIn page. 

Sheila resigned from her post on the town’s Board of Aldermen on Jan. 24, 2022. She served for four years, most recently as mayor pro tem.

I didn’t know what that means so looked it up:

A common use of pro tempore in the United States is in municipalities such as cities and towns with regard to the position of the mayor. In many cities, the city council appoints one of its members to act as mayor pro tempore (pro tem) (or vice mayor) in the absence of the actual mayor.

I cannot find what Clay actually did for work.  He was an officer of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission “to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War.”

Lacey seemed to have a fairly normal childhood.  She attended Brownsville Baptist Academy where she was on the volleyball team. 

A neighbor of the Fletcher family, Robert Blades has described Lacey ‘just a fun, normal kid’.  

‘When I saw her that last time, she appeared fairly physically normal,’ Robert said. 

‘She was always pretty thin and she was exercising in the road with those small weights you carry.

‘I’d see her a few times, gently getting some exercise in the roadway. I didn’t say anything to her that final time, there was no reason to.’

From what I have read, Lacey was on the autism spectrum and her condition intensified around 9th grade at the age of 14.  Her parents took her out of school and apparently began to home-school her.  

Robert Blades has a son, also named Robert, and he has said:  ‘She became different. She just didn’t see things the way a lot of other kids did. She was definitely different from other kids her age. I knew she was not your typical teenager.

‘She was smart, she was as smart as hell. But I guess the best way to put it is that she wasn’t as mature as us. She still liked children things, not teenage things.

‘When she was 17 or 18 she was more into Disney movies and country music. 

‘She did invite us over to watch Disney movies, despite being more withdrawn. But that wasn’t my forte, I was 18. I used to ride motorcycles.’

One of Lacey’s friends from the 9th grade spoke to the media:

‘I remember her as a sweet, kind person.  She was one of the first people that I was friends with when I started at the school and she was already there.

‘She was thoughtful, just sweet is the word I keep coming back to. One of the sweetest people you could ever meet, so very kind.

‘Lacey could be quiet, but could also be vocal with her opinions.’

I have read some articles that suggest that Lacey suffered severe social anxiety and had been treated by a psychologist over a three year period in her teens.

After Lacey was pulled out of school, very few people saw her.  I believe it would have been around 1999/2000 when she was pulled from school (if she was 14 and born in 1985).

There is an article about Lacey’s background and it says that in 2010, the parents went to the doctor’s office without Lacey and asked for his advice.  They said she was increasingly not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to leave the sofa, just totally recluse.’

In 2017,  the neighbor Robert Blades realized that he hadn’t seen Lacey for a long time.  He asked Clay about her.

‘I asked Clay because I hadn’t seen her for so long. I actually thought maybe she got married and moved on,’ he said.

‘I said, how is Lacey? How’s she doing? Has she moved off? Went to college or what?

‘He replied, oh no, she’s still here. She’s fine. And then changed the subject. And that’s it. He didn’t explain why we hadn’t seen her at all.’

On January 3, 2022 around 2am, Sheila Fletcher called 911 to report that Lacey was not breathing.  It is unclear why she decided to call at that time, but some reports say that a neighbor was present in the home and told her she had to call authorities.

Robert Blades said ‘There was one neighbor here, we don’t know who it was, had supposedly seen Lacey on the couch like that and told the parents they had to call the police,’ he said. ‘And that’s what we were told. I don’t know how much truth there is in that.’

A Sheriff’s Deputy was dispatched to the scene and quickly called Coroner Dr Ewell Bickham.

This description of the scene they encountered is VERY graphic so be warned.  

‘I have been a sheriff for six years, and I have had a lot of things happen here in East Feliciana Parish, but this type of scene, this is by far the worst,’ Sheriff Jeffery Travis said. 

‘Opened the door, walked into the house, there was a stench, an odor, feces, fecal material, urine, you couldn’t hold your breath,’ Coroner Bickham said, WAFB reported. 

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla, who sought murder charges and will prosecute the Fletchers at trial, shared the images with at his office near the courthouse in Clinton. He would not release them for publication, however.

Nearly all were unpublishable due to their horrifying, graphic content. In them, Lacey appears almost buried up to her shoulders in the wide and deep hole in the sofa that her bony body has worn over the years, rubbing away the cushioning. She is slumped over on her left side with her right arm across the top half of her emaciated body near her neck. She is naked apart from a small blue patterned T-shirt, which is pulled up on her chest and does not cover her breasts. Her eyes are wide open, staring. Her mouth is also open, revealing what appears to be a full set of front teeth. Her legs are pulled up and crossed underneath her, ironically in a way that people can make themselves comfortable. But in Lacey’s case it was a posture of a bid to survive.

Her face is covered in large and angry red blotches. Excrement is smeared over almost all her body. It is matted in her hair. It is even inside her ears. There are maggots and insect bites all over her body. The brown leather sofa that served as her prison is alongside a wall, with a gap of about 18 inches. Astonishingly, to the couch’s right side is a gray commode and a neat pile of clothes. And to the front, only a few feet away, is a cluttered low black table. It is strewn with lotion bottles, some talcum powder, a pack of wipes, a nasal spray, a box with a lid that had a child’s photo on it, and other items that make it appear the Fletchers had the resources to clean their stricken only child. Between the sofa and table are two neatly stacked boxes of DVDs. It is not possible to discern the titles, but some appeared to be child-like from the covers.

Desperately sad photos of Lacey taken later on a physician’s steel table for a forensic examination further reveal the extent of her harrowing and so far unexplained ordeal. She weighed just 96lb when discovered dead in the early hours of January 3. Close-ups show the flesh on her buttocks appears to be literally worn or eaten away from the 12 years that she hadn’t moved from the couch. There are large raw yellow areas where the skin has disappeared. Other back and buttock areas are so blackened it is impossible for anyone to identify what exactly they are looking at.

Part of a video taken by Coroner Dr Ewell Bickham was also seen by He was among the first on the horror scene after a sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call – and documented the appalling spectacle. He is breathing heavily as he moves the camera to the gap behind the sofa and the wall. A large wet patch is on the floor, directly behind Lacey’s body, which he believes is urine. DA D’Aquilla said as he revealed the horror to us: “You can’t say she wasn’t in pain.” Dr Bickham has revealed Lacey died from “severe medical neglect, which led to chronic malnutrition, acute starvation, immobility, acute ulcer formation, osteomyelitis (bone infection) which finally led to sepsis.”

Upon further investigation, authorities determined that Lacey had not been seen by a doctor since she was 16 – over 20 years.

She weighed 96lbs and had Covid when she died.

The coroner has reported that Lacey died 24-48 hours before her mother called 911.

There are some reports that say Lacey suffered from ‘Locked In Syndrome’.  

Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological disorder in which there is complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles except for the ones that control the movements of the eyes.

Individuals with locked-in syndrome are conscious and awake, but have no ability to produce movements (outside of eye movement) or to speak (aphonia). Cognitive function is usually unaffected. Communication is possible through eye movements or blinking. Locked-in syndrome is caused by damaged to the pons, a part of the brainstem that contains nerve fibers that relay information to other areas of the brain.

I know there is much debate online about if Lacey actually suffered from Locked In Syndrome and we aren’t entirely sure but wanted to mention it as it does come up a lot in regards to her case.

Lacey’s parents said during questioning that she was intellectually sound until the end of her life.

Sheila’s story was that Lacey was alive at 10pm.  Sheila fell asleep in a chair and woke up at 2am to find Lacey dead on the couch.

She said that Lacey refused to get off the couch in years and would just use the couch as a toilet.  

Despite the depraved conditions that Lacey was found in, her parents were not immediately charged.  On May 3, 4 months after Lacey’s sad death, both Clay and Sheila were charged with second-degree murder. They were arrested after a Grand Jury decided along with Attorney Sam D’Aquilla that they should face second-degree murder charges and not manslaughter.

Sheila was released on May 4 after she posted $300k bail.  Clay spent one more night in jail due to a bond delay, but he was released the following day. 

They used a bondsman, which means they had to put up 12 per cent – $72,000 to cover them both.

The couple’s first arraignment is due in the next few months, and Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said that a trial could commence by October. 

The grand jury were shown extensive images of the conditions in which Lacey was found. Dr Bickham told they were so horrific and upsetting that medics were on standby for the 12 panel members.

He added that the photos of the scene left those in the room speechless.

‘When I was presenting the case and showed the pictures and gave the timeline the expressions of the grand jury was utter shock, he said. ‘Like the clock on the wall never moved again.

‘There was complete silence. Some jurors were gasping in horror. Some were staring in disbelief.’ 

Coroner Bickham told the media that the case has been really hard on him personally and described the grand jury proceedings as ‘long emotional day’.

He added: ‘Seeing those photos again and reliving this traumatic experience again was really hard.’

Coroner Bickham spoke outside the court after proceedings and he revealed that Lacey had been on the couch for at least 12 years.

‘Evidence wise, a minimum of 12 years,’ he said. ‘Could be before that. At least 12 years. A terribly long period of time.’

Outside the court, DA D’Aquilla said: ‘I believe justice was served here today. Lacey Fletcher didn’t deserve the way she was treated.

‘For this type of crime… second degree is the highest charge that could have been produced today.’

‘Negligent homicide is zero to five years, manslaughter is zero to 40 years and second-degree is life in prison. I will ask for second degree because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

He agreed Lacey’s death was a ‘crime against humanity’ and added: ‘I hope this indictment brings some spotlight to victims of this type of crime.

‘The coroner has a lot of authority, a lot of power. If people don’t want to get treatment or they refuse treatment, go to the coroner’s office, go to law enforcement, check on your neighbors, check on your friends. If you are a care giver, reach out and make sure people are taken care of.

‘This case was so horrific that the coroner and the sheriff’s office initially investigated this case in January and the conditions that she was found it was just unbelievable.

‘You don’t treat anybody or any animals like that. Something had to be done and we all got together, we all stood on the same platform and we are all here now and we have an indictment for second degree murder.’

The couple’s lawyer Steven Moore has said in a statement: ‘They don’t want to relive the pain of losing a child through the media.

‘They have been through a lot of heartache over the years. Anyone who had lost a child knows what it’s like.’


In August 2017, Valerie Wallach – a 67 year old woman – was found barely alive in a rotten armchair in her home.  The home was squalid and filled with rubbish, and Valerie was covered in maggots when she was discovered.

Authorities who discovered Valerie have said that she was living in the worst conditions they had ever seen.  Paramedics said that Valerie was found in chair, pale, struggling for breath, vacant and her skin was inflamed and covered in flies.

Prosecutor Richard Pratt said: ‘The collective experience of the fire officers spanned well over 30 years – they had never seen a living human being in such a poor condition.’

When bags covering her legs were moved they were found to be sore, swollen and covered in a thick brown slime.

Due to the amount of junk in the house, paramedics and firefighters discussed removing a window to get Valerie help.  Her husband Richard objected to this as they were new windows and he said there could be insurance implications.

Valerie was rushed to hospital where she was treated for advanced breast cancer, organ failure and pressure sores. 

It took staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital 90 minutes to clean Mrs Wallach and her blackened teeth were so decayed that she was unable to speak and screamed in pain when staff tried to clean her mouth.

When she was admitted to hospital, Valerie’s husband Richard told authorities that Valerie had collapsed in the armchair recently. 

He said she was still responsive but was babbling. He said he couldn’t call an ambulance as he didn’t have a telephone. 

The doctor thought it was more likely that she had been in the chair in that state for weeks if not months.

When she was admitted to hospital, she was covered in faeces and there were maggots in the folds of her skin. 

Some of Valerie’s pressure sores were categorised as Grade 4, the most serious type, and had even caused her skin to shed, right down to the bone.

Kate Johnston, a tissue viability support nurse at the Royal, said the patient was brought in in ‘an appalling state.’ 

She said: ‘Her clothing was covered in faeces and she hadn’t washed in some time. 

‘There was newspaper stuck to her clothing and a Pot Noodle sachet stuck to her leg.

When Valerie was admitted to hospital, officials found is strange that Richard was more worried about a constipation issue that he was suffering.  According to hospital staff, after being told that Valerie would likely not survive, he said: “Thanks for letting me know but who is going to sort out my problem? I’ve been constipated for weeks”.

Valerie died on September 12, 2017, 19 days after she was taken to hospital.  An autopsy revealed the cause of death as multi-organ failure, breast cancer and infected pressure ulcers.   Her breast cancer had spread to her brain, spine and ribs.  She was only diagnosed with cancer upon her admission to hospital, so who knows how long she suffered with it beforehand?

Richard Wallach was charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

Richard’s story was that it had been Valerie’s decision to spend all her time in the arm chair.  He said he originally helped her upstairs to use the toilet, but she eventually became immobile.  He said she slept in the chair.   

Richard claimed he would check on her several times a day and would give her sandwiches and takeaway meals such as fish and chips, which she would feed herself, and give her coca cola to drink. 

He told detectives, ‘We were together for 25 years and I loved the bones of her.’ 

In court, his Queens Counsel David McLachlan asked if he was responsible for his wife’s death he replied, “I take offence at that. I am not guilty for the death of my wife, no way.” 

When he was shown photos of the state of filth in the house, Richard said  ‘I am an untidy person. I am just generally untidy.’  

Richard was examined by a psychologist and was found to be suffering from a ‘hoarding disorder’.  He was shown photos of his wife and her injuries and in his words, she looked ‘very bad.’  

‘I must have had a mental lapse or something. I do not recall those injuries at all,’ he said. 

He said: ‘I looked after her to the best of my ability. I assumed she was all right. 

‘If she had been in pain she would have let me know and I would have done something about it.’

When he was asked about the very strong smell from the filth and decay in the home, Richard said he had not noticed.  He said he used to open windows and use air fresheners. 

Sharon Campbell, a lawyer with the Complex Casework Unit of Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Mr Wallach said he was unaware of Valerie’s deteriorating health despite the fact he was the only person living with her and caring for her. 

‘This is hard to believe, bearing in mind the condition in which she was found by the paramedics. He preferred to stay upstairs when “things deteriorated”. 

‘The Crown Prosecution Service said this was because he chose to ignore the fact that Valerie was dying and to ignore the fact that she needed medical help. 

‘He told police that he cared for her to the best of his ability, but there appeared to be no care of his wife in the last few months. 

‘The condition in which Valerie Wallach was found was nothing short of appalling. Her last few months on this earth were spent in pain, filth and squalor. 

‘Medical reports confirmed she died prematurely as a result of the pressure sores and associated sepsis. 

‘The jury saw through his claims and found him guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. A shocking and disturbing case indeed.’

In 2019, Richard was sentenced to 8 years in jail.

Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, told Richard that it was clear from the evidence, ‘that you are self-obsessed, by which I mean you are excessively preoccupied with your own life and circumstances and think only about yourself’.

He said a probation officer concluded he had a tendency to view things from the perspective of his own perceived needs and health issues at the expense of his wife’s needs and deteriorating health issues.

‘In other words you are a thoroughly selfish man and in this instance your selfishness led directly to the death of your wife.’

Judge Flewitt told Richard that his breach of duty to his wife was ‘truly exceptionally bad and so reprehensible as to justify the conclusion that it amounted to gross negligence.

‘Your neglect of your wife was extreme and led to her living the last few months of her life in appalling conditions.’

He pointed out that apart from a hoarding disorder, Richard has no other mental problems and he kept the rooms he used relatively clean and tidy.

‘That leads me to the inescapable conclusion that you simply couldn’t be bothered to take the same care of your wife as you took of yourself,’ he added.


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