BARRE — A Montpelier woman has admitted to negligence and Medicaid fraud in the death of a vulnerable adult.
Jennifer M. Cote, 44, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Washington County criminal court in Barre to felony counts of Medicaid fraud and neglect of a vulnerable adult. Cote will be sentenced on Jan. 1, where the state will argue for one to three years to serve and her attorney, Robert Sussman, will argue for a lesser sentence. The state agreed to drop a felony count of involuntary manslaughter and three additional felony counts of neglect of a vulnerable adult, per the plea agreement.
Jeffrey A. Kittredge, 53, also of Montpelier, faces a felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of neglect of a vulnerable adult and a felony count of Medicaid fraud. Kittredge’s case is still pending.
Detective Cpl. Stephen Nolan, of the Montpelier Police, said in his affidavit he received a report in July 2016 from the chief medical examiner’s office regarding a Montpelier resident who died at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Nolan said police were informed that Jeffrey A. Kittredge II, 20, died of septic shock from infected bed sores that hadn’t been cared for properly. He said the man’s skin had been “rotting away,” according to court records.
Nolan said the younger Kittredge suffered from multiple medical conditions, including spina bifida (a birth defect where the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly) a brain development birth defect and clubbed feet. Nolan said he needed 24-hour care as a result of his medical conditions.
Nolan said the older Kittredge was his son’s primary care provider and his court-appointed guardian. Cote was the father’s significant other, according to Nolan, and a former licensed nursing assistant. She was also a caregiver for the younger Kittredge.
Nolan said Dr. Steven Shapiro, the state’s chief medical examiner, told police the younger Kittredge’s sores were the most “disgusting” he’d seen in his career. He said the younger Kittredge had been admitted to the hospital in Burlington from December 2015 to February 2016 because of bed sores.
The medical examiner spoke with the older Kittredge about his son’s death and about the earlier hospital visit, Nolan said, and that conversation was recorded and shared with police.
Shapiro asked the older Kittredge why he didn’t try to get help for his son once he saw the sores weren’t getting better after he was discharged from the hospital. The older Kittredge told Shapiro the sores had been getting better until the last couple of days of his son’s life. Shapiro told police he had seen what the sores looked like during the first hospital visit compared to what they looked like when the younger Kittredge died and they had become “significantly worse.”
The older Kittredge told Shapiro he probably should have called a wound-care nurse, but he felt it was his “responsibility” to care for his child. He told Shapiro he thought he was doing his best for his son, “but I guess I wasn’t.” Nolan said during the conversation that the older Kittredge never told Shapiro that Cote was also a paid in-home caretaker for his son.
He said the father made it seem like he was taking care of his son on his own.
For the fraud allegation, investigators said both the father and Cote were receiving Medicaid money for taking care of the younger Kittredge. Investigators said they should not have been receiving the money because it appeared the pair didn’t provide adequate care.