DeKalb County Police executed a search warrant March 28 on two locations that allegedly served as unlicensed care homes.
The first location police searched, located at 2849 Snapfinger Road in Decatur, was home to three mentally disabled residents.
Upon entering the home, detectives found a locked closet that contained food, which could be evidence of neglect, police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.
Parish said Sonja Wyatt, the owner of the home, owns a property in Lithonia that detectives also searched.
Detectives said the second location housed two mentally disabled residents, the conditions were âdeplorableâ and there were locks on the refrigerator.
âIn both cases the state representatives are assisting with relocating the residents to licensed facilities,â Parish said.
Wyatt was not inside either home police searched. Parish said police are currently trying to locate her to serve an arrest warrant.
Last year a law was passed making it illegal to operate an unlicensed care home in the state. Now, those who do can face up to a year in jail.
âWe have been collaborating with a number of state agencies,â DeKalb County Police Sgt. Marne Mercer said.
Police served both search warrants in collaboration with officials from the Georgia Department of Human Servicesâ Adult Protective Services, behavioral health representatives, the DeKalb County Police Crime Scene Unit and other state agencies.
âWe all work together jointly to go into these homes, make sure the residents are safe and get them relocated into someplace where they wonât be exploited,â Mercer said.
Those accused of operating more than one unlicensed care home can face felony charges, Mercer said. During the execution of the search warrant, Mercer said detectives are also looking for signs of abuse such as neglect or exploitation.
âHave they been deprived of food or their medicine or not been taken to their doctorsâ appointments like they were supposed to? Has someone been taking financial advantage of them?â Mercer said.
At the home located off Snapfinger Road, investigators were also concerned about the living conditions of the home, according to Parish.
âIn general, there are concerns about the cleanliness of the location,â Parish said.
DeKalb County Police Sgt. Tom Woodington runs the DeKalb County Police Crisis
Response Unit, which responds to calls related to mental health and substance abuse issues.
Woodington said that police had known about the home off Snapfinger Road since 2007 but were unable to do anything about it until the law was changed. He said his unit could only call county code enforcement on unlicensed care homes.
Abuse of the elderly and mentally disabled is one of the hardest crimes to prosecute, Mercer said. Occasionally, witnesses may be suffering from diseases such as dementia or even be unaware of the abuses that theyâre suffering.
âThat is actually why they made the law much more clear,â Mercer said. âThis gives us a much clearer point of entry in order to start investigating some of those other crimes as well as getting the residents into a safe place where the care is licensed and theyâre getting care from nurses and health care professionals.â
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