A murder charge was added Tuesday against a Carson City caretaker already accused of concealing the body of an elderly woman under her care and stealing from her estate.
The charge against Kelly Sue Hein, 33, was filed after an investigation turned up evidence that suggests 79-year-old Iris Barton was killed when her oxygen supply was cut off or her food supply removed, Prosecutor Anne Langer said. Barton was under Hein's care.
Langer said she would not comment on the evidence. Hein was previously suspected of abuse causing bodily harm, theft and forgery.
"I can't talk about a pending case," Langer said. "I can say the charges were based on an investigation done by the sheriff's department."
In addition to an open count of murder, Hein is charged with alternative counts of abuse or neglect to a person over the age of 60 causing or resulting in death. The options would allow a jury to deliberate the level of the suspect's intent in the alleged crime.
During a jailhouse interview on July 20, Hein told investigators Barton died of natural causes on June 27, more than three weeks prior to her arrest. Langer said investigators have new information about the estimated time of Barton's death, but she did not elaborate.
Barton had been living with a machine that aided in her breathing by increasing the oxygen supply.
Her severely decomposed body was discovered in an upstairs bedroom at her home at 4722 Blackrock Court. Hein had been living at the home as her caretaker for more than two years.
Officers from the Department of Parole and Probation made the discovery while they were looking for Kenneth Calihan, who had listed Barton and Hein's home as his residence. While at the door, the officers smelled the pungent odor of decaying flesh. During a search of the home, Hein's boyfriend opened the bedroom door, revealing the body, reports state.
Hein was immediately taken into custody. No other suspects have been announced in the case.
Among the first charges brought against Hein were allegations that she had forged checks from Barton's account and used Barton's credit card without permission. She reportedly admitted to officials that she had taken $2,500 from a checking account.
In court papers filed last week, investigators listed five empty prescription bottles, four black maggot shells and two live maggots as evidence collected at the home and on Barton's body.
Hein is scheduled to appear today in a justice courtroom to set a hearing date for the new charge.
A physical autopsy, hampered by the level of decomposition, did not reveal any signs of foul play, sheriff's investigators have said. Langer would not say if the new charges are related to the results of a chemical analysis of the body.
Barton's health decline started two years ago, near the time of her husband Gene's death. They had been married 40 years.
According to neighbor's reports, Hein moved into the home to care for Barton during a time of failing health. Hein originally lived next door with her husband and two children. The two are separated but not divorced. The family continues to live in the Blackrock Court home.
Attorney Ben Walker was assigned to represent Hein because the public defender's office cited a conflict of interest in a motion to Justice of the Peace John Tatro. The office said it is representing several of the witnesses named in the case.