Crime

The 88-year-old had cigarette burns and broken bones. Her son is charged with abuse

A Pasco man allegedly burned his 88-year-old mother with cigarettes and pushed her down, causing broken bones, in apparent frustration over caring for her.

Thomas J. Ayala, 60, initially denied ever hitting his mom, then admitted having been annoyed with her on more than one occasion, according to court documents.

He never sought medical attention for her injuries, telling police it had been about eight months since she’d been to a doctor.

The woman, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, finally was hospitalized Sept. 3 when a neighbor gave Ayala an ultimatum — get his mother immediate treatment or the neighbor would call 911 for an ambulance.

It was later at the hospital that doctors discovered the woman had a brain bleed, along with numerous bruises, cuts and open wounds, court documents show.

Ayala claimed his mother had fallen against walls and on the hardwood floor in their home several times over Labor Day weekend, documents said.

He is now charged in Franklin County Superior Court with second-degree criminal mistreatment.

The felony charge is when someone entrusted to provide the basic necessities of life to a dependent person recklessly causes substantial bodily harm by withholding those essentials.

Malnourished and injured

In this case, prosecutors allege Ayala did not give the proper amount and type of food to his mom, leaving her extremely malnourished with multiple areas of injuries.

Pasco Detective Jed Abastillas responded to Kadlec Regional Medical Center on Sept. 10 to follow up on a referral from Adult Protective Services.

The elderly victim initially was treated at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, but was transferred to the Richland hospital because of her head injury.

Medical staff told the detective they found a number of wounds in various stages of healing, including broken ribs and a broken bone in her neck.

Her current injuries included a swollen face and bruises on the top of her head, arms, thighs and back area near her hips and butt.

She also had cuts and open wounds — some bone deep — on her hands, top of her head, right arm, shins and ears, court documents said.

Staff told the detective that the woman’s left shin was bowed, which they believed was caused by an old break that did not heal correctly.

The woman knows her name and can understand basic commands, but is unable to feed herself or use the bathroom on her own, said investigators.

She was malnourished when she was brought in to the hospital and, after being fed for several days, was improving, documents said.

Moved from California

Ayala is reportedly his mother’s only living relative. He moved her from Hemet, Calif., about five years ago when she started forgetting things.

Ayala handles maintenance at a Pasco apartment complex. He told the detective that he made breakfast for his mother, then would leave for work.

He would check on her during lunch, and come home in the evening to prepare dinner, according to court documents.

The son claimed that he had a next-door neighbor periodically checking on his mother.

However, that neighbor later told police that when Ayala called her for help on Sept. 3, it was the first time she had seen the woman in about a year.

Ayala said he wanted to get his mom checked out after she fell several times over the long holiday weekend.

He asked the neighbor to help him get his mom into their van, but the neighbor ended up cleaning the house, bathing the woman and dressing her, documents said.

Ayala told the detective that he did not see his mother fall, even though he was home at the time.

He blamed the cuts on her thin skin, and told police he was trying to quit smoking though he didn’t acknowledge his mother’s circular scabs were from cigarettes.

Medical staff told the detective that “the level of care being given to (the woman) is not sufficient to meet (her) needs.”

They also said that some of her previous wounds were severe enough that a reasonable person would have sought immediate medical attention, court documents said.

“Ayala admitted to being frustrated with having to take care of his mom but said that he would never hit his mom,” Abastillas wrote in documents. “Ayala admitted to getting frustrated to the point that he would push his mom down on more than one occasion.”

Ayala is out of custody after posting $2,500 bond and has been told to stay away from his mom.

He is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 24 on the new charge.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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