Michael Underhill, 56, pleaded no contest on Monday to the Class D charge of recklessly endangering the welfare of a dependent person. According to court documents, he will serve no jail time and won’t receive probation.
The charge stemmed from an incident in April, when the Waldo County District Attorney’s office requested a welfare check on an 84-year-old man who had dementia. When a deputy went to the man’s home, he discovered Underhill’s father on the couch. The man seemed unable to get up because of his illness, the deputy wrote in the investigation report. He was in front of a stoked fire, with his legs propped up with an empty beer cooler and his feet resting on a pillow, according to the report.
“His legs were bare and I could see several abrasions on his legs and arms,” the deputy wrote, adding that the sores had begun to heal.
The man reportedly told the deputy that no one else had been in the home that morning and that the last time he had eaten was about a week earlier. The deputy noted that the man had soiled himself, but added that he “chuckled” and denied that someone had tied him to the couch.
The EMTs that responded to the home found that a rope with a blanket underneath and a yellow ratchet strap had been used to tie the man to the couch, according to police records. The man was transported to the hospital by ambulance for treatment.
Underhill came home shortly after his father had been taken to the hospital, and told the deputy that he had left a couple of hours earlier to go grocery shopping. He said that on his last trip to the doctor’s office with his father, the doctor told him that his father’s legs needed to be elevated for his circulation. He explained to the deputy that was why he had put his father’s legs up on a cooler with a pillow, and also why he had wrapped a towel around his father’s legs and used the rope to keep his legs in place.
“He said without any prompting that he had rigged a heavy-duty ratchet strap around the frame of the couch to secure the rope,” the deputy wrote in the investigation narrative.
He also told the deputy he had fed his father some canned oysters that morning, adding that it seemed to be the only thing he wanted to eat.
A Waldo County grand jury indicted Underhill last fall on a Class C charge of intentionally endangering the welfare of a dependent person, a more serious crime that could have carried a penalty of as much as a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. But that charge was dismissed.
Underhill’s attorney, Logan Perkins, told the BDN last fall that her client was the full-time caregiver for his father, who had “advanced dementia and was at times seriously combative.”
“He was in a very difficult position with limited resources and limited availability of caregiving resources in rural Maine,” the lawyer said.