Lawsuit Filed Against Bost After Caregiver Is Charged With Murder

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) — The brother of a mentally disabled man, who died of dehydration and sepsis, has filed a lawsuit against Bost, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides care for people with developmental disabilities, after one of their caregivers was charged with murder.

In February 2015, police found the body of Jimmy Don Abner, 57, in a wooded area off of Cedarville Road near Cedarville, according to court documents. Abner was naked except for a pair of socks.

An autopsy showed Abner died of dehydration and sepsis and the death was ruled a homicide, the documents state. Shawn Edward Howard was arrested in April on suspicion of second-degree murder, according to his arrest warrant.

The lawsuit accuses Bost of wrongful death, medical injury, ordinary negligence and medical negligence and seeks punitive damages.

At the time of his death, Abner was suffering from early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s and had the mental capacity of a five-year-old, the court documents state. When his body was found Abner weighed 92 pounds and was covered in bed sores, according to investigators.

Howard had been Abner’s sole home healthcare aid through Bost for seven years before his death, probable cause documents state. He told police Abner left with a man named Eugene and was in good health at the time, according to the arrest warrant. A letter later sent to police from Eugene stated he and Abner went to Missouri to get married and if police didn’t stop looking for them he would kill himself and Abner, the documents state. Police determined Eugene didn’t exist.

Police also interviewed one of Howard’s acquaintances who told them Howard offered her money if she told police Abner left with Eugene, according to the warrant.

Howard was supposed to provide Abner with 24-hour care, seven days a week and had to be relieved by another Bost employee in order to leave Abner’s home, according to the warrant. Casino records and video obtained by police showed Howard went to an Oklahoma casino almost every day in January 2015 for several hours, the warrant states.

The arrest warrant also states police determined Howard tried to minimize Abner’s contact with other people who might notice his injuries. A Bost employee, who was supposed to check on Abner every 30 days, told police the last few times she had been to his home Abner was in a bubble bath and she never asked him to stand, according to the warrant.

Bost released a statement in response to Abner’s death following Howard’s arrest.  To read the statement, click here.