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Charleston police arrest woman after mother's body found decomposed in apartment

Regan Doherty

Regan Doherty. Cannon Detention Center/Provided

A Charleston woman was arrested Friday after authorities found her mother's decomposed body in an apartment they shared. 

Regan Doherty, a 44-year-old resident of Laurens Street, was charged with one count of abuse or willful and knowing neglect of a vulnerable adult, according to court records. 

Officers were called about 5:30 p.m. Thursday to do a welfare check on 79-year-old Leah Doherty on behalf of the Charleston Housing Authority, according to an incident report. 

When they got to the Laurens Street apartment near the Gaillard Center, the door was unlocked and Leah Doherty's body was on the bathroom floor, the report said. She was declared dead at the scene.  

An arrest affidavit filed in Charleston County court on Friday provides further details. 

"Officers observed the victim in a progressed state of decomposition, lying in the fetal position of her bathroom. There were towels covering (her)." 

The affidavit said she had trouble getting around and couldn't care for herself. It said she needed help with everyday tasks like using the bathroom, bathing and eating. 

She started to suffer incontinence and her condition grew worse, it said. 

Regan Doherty, who acted as her mother's sole caregiver, worked and would leave her mother alone for "several hours during the day and evening."

While her daughter was at work, the elderly woman would sit in a leather chair in the apartment's living room, the affidavit says. After her mother soiled the chair, Regan Doherty replaced the cushion with towels, which became soiled. 

"The defendant has no professional medical training," according to the affidavit. 

The court document also stated that Regan Doherty told investigators she couldn't provide her mother the care required of someone in her condition. She told them she started caring for her mother about August. 

One day, she came home and found her mother on the floor; apparently the elderly woman fell and spent the day on the floor until her daughter got home, the affidavit said. 

She also started to notice bed sores on her mother's buttocks and upper thighs, according to the document. 

On Jan. 23, the younger woman found her mother slumped over in the chair, but was still warm to the touch, the affidavit said. She left for work without calling for medical help. 

"The defendant left the victim until (police) arrival three weeks later ... where she was found deceased."

During a search of the apartment, officers didn't find any medication, medical equipment or any personal hygiene items like disposable diapers, wet wipes or sanitary items.

Officers found the leather chair next to a Dumpster below the apartment. It was missing its seat cushion, and covered in dried, coagulated blood, the affidavit said. 

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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