Disabled teen with bedsores was 'lost in the cracks'

LUDLOW, Ky. — Joseph "Joey" Bishop, whose Duchenne muscular dystrophy kept him confined to his twin bed for the past two years, was in excruciating pain in the last weeks of his life as the bed sores that covered his back, legs and arms grew in size and severity; Ludlow Police Chief Scott Smith has no doubt of that.

And Smith is positive that the three adults — his mother, his grandmother and his grandfather — who were supposed to care for him knew the 18-year-old's progressive muscle disease was getting worse. Court documents charging each of them with manslaughter in his death say that is exactly why they didn't call anyone for help.

"They were afraid they were going to get in trouble for neglect," Smith said Thursday.

But what troubles Smith even more is that systems put in place to monitor children and the disabled failed Bishop. No one ever called the police — not a school; not the state, which at one time had an open case on him apparently when he was pulled out to be homeschooled; and not Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, where doctors were to see him every six months to monitor his muscular degeneration but hadn't seen him in two years, Smith said.

No one ever called to talk to the teen, to play video games or watch movies with him in the past couple of years, as far as investigators can determine. No relatives ever stopped by for a visit, Smith said.

Officials with at least two Kenton County school districts and Children's Hospital declined to discuss the case, citing privacy laws. Calls to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to determine when it closed its case on Bishop were not returned Thursday.

"Nobody had a clue. And that's one of my biggest frustrations," said Smith, who said he plans schedule meetings to try to see why no agency followed up on the teen's care or his whereabouts. "Why was there no follow-up at all?

While Duchenne muscular dystrophy has no cure, medical advances are allowing those who have it to live into their 40s or 50s when most used to die in their teens, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Smith believes that public safety and health care professionals need to be the backup for people who are disabled or can't care for themselves.

"If you are looking for a case of someone getting lost in the cracks, this is it," he said. "No one even knew this kid lived there."

Bishop's mom, Jamie Bishop, 40; and his grandparents Raymond Martin, 67, and Sharon Martin, 65, remain jailed in Kenton County in the Saturday death.

The teen's mom and his grandfather were arrested Tuesday; his grandmother was booked Wednesday. All apparently missed Joey Bishop's Friday funeral.

Raymond Martin told Ludlow Detective Eric Love that Joey Bishop had not been moved from his bed for months. His mother told the detective she last washed his body six weeks before his death.

Court records indicate the teen "required care, including, but not limited to, bathing, cleaning, eating, walking, and all typical daily functions." He wore a diaper and required help using the bathroom.

The family called the fire department Feb. 11 to take the teen to the hospital after "he was no longer eating and slurring his words," according to the search warrant affidavit filed in Kenton County Circuit Court.

But Joey Bishop was "already suffering from sepsis so advanced that medical care was futile," the criminal complaint said. By the time Love had arrived at the hospital the teen had died.

"I would say in my 19 years, this is among the one or two worst conditions of a body I've seen," the detective said. Court records note the bedsores were so deep that in some places that muscle and bone were exposed.

"To know that he was alive and suffering, that is the worst," Love said.

The police chief was more graphic and succinct: Joey Bishop rotted to death.

Kenton County prosecutor Rob Sanders, who filed the charges, said he wants to know more, too.

"At some point, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services had an open case on Joseph. It was not open at the time of his death," he said via email. "I've requested a copy of their files to ascertain why.

"I anticipate this investigation will include looking into how Joseph came to be in the situation that resulted in his death," Sanders said. "But it's premature to comment on who, if anyone, failed to check up on him."

But to Smith, just about everyone failed the teen.

"This is a failure of society," he said. "We are so busy with everything else that sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us. Not one person called to say: 'I'm concerned about Joey' — not a teacher, not a friend, not a relative."

Follow Chris Graves on Twitter: @chrisgraves

The Cincinnati Enquirer


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