Jury finds Spanaway man guilty in death of adult he cared for

Philip “George” Carter didn’t like going to the doctor.

And when the developmentally delayed 59-year-old had deep, infected bed sores, no one made him go to a hospital until it was too late to save his life from the infection last year.

A jury held 51-year-old Larry John Lee responsible for that, and found the caretaker guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court.

He will be sentenced for the most serious of the two convictions, the murder, later this year.

“The defendant took too long to call for help,” Deputy Prosecutor Erika Nohavec said in her closing argument to the jury. “He (Carter) was beyond help by the time he arrived at the hospital.”

Carter required daily assistance, such as with meals, hygiene and mobility.

He was living in Lee’s Spanaway home when it lost its license as an adult family home in 2013. Lee still cared for Carter after that, and secured state funding to do so until the end of 2014, when he failed to obtain proper certification.

Defense attorney Geoffrey Cross argued the caretaker relationship changed to one of tenant and landlord. He told the court Carter resisted going to the doctor, and mostly kept to his room.

“He wanted to spend the rest of his life in that room, and unfortunately, he did,” Cross said. “… Larry did a lot for this man. He was a friend.”

But prosecutors contended Lee was obligated to do more to get Carter medical attention.

“Nothing changed about the care that George required,” Nohavec said at trial. “… The fundamental relationship was the same.”

Lee found Carter unresponsive May 15, 2015, and paramedics took him to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, where staff members declared his injuries the worst case of neglect some had seen.

The hospital found the sores packed with paper towels; the most significant went down to his bone.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell