Reposted from a story by Katie DeRosa in the Times Colonist on November 7, 2013 09:57 PM
Saanich police are recommending charges against a man for neglecting to care for his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
Mark Stupple, 58, is accused of failing to provide the necessities of life for Linda Stupple, who was found unconscious in the couple’s Saanich home on Sept. 27.
Police say she was found in “extreme medical distress.”
When Saanich firefighters arrived at the house that night, they had to remove “rubble and debris” out of the way so B.C. Ambulance paramedics could assist the victim, who was located in a “small cluttered covered porch,” said Saanich fire prevention officer Rich Pala.
Firefighters noticed evidence of hoarding, Pala said. Saanich bylaw officials had received complaints in the past about garbage piling up around the exterior of the house.
“There were some obvious signs of clutter … an indication of possible hoarding,” he said.
Mark’s mother Joyce Stupple confirmed her son is being investigated.
Ten days before Linda was taken to hospital, Joyce Stupple said that Linda’s mother, who lives in Seattle, called her to say she was concerned for her daughter.
On Sept. 25, Saanich police received a call from a family member asking them to check the welfare of a 56-year-old female resident at the home, said police spokesman Sgt. Steve Eassie.
He was not able to confirm the couple’s names.
Officers knocked on the door and no one answered. Police knocked again the next day and still no answer.
They did speak to the woman on the phone and she said she did not need medical assistance, Eassie said.
Police tried to confirm that in person on Sept. 27 and still no one answered the door.
That evening around 8:30 p.m. the husband called 911 to say his wife was unconscious and needed medical assistance, Eassie said.
He said the man was trying to move his wife from one area of the home to another in “attempts to obtain medical services for her,” but he did not explain whether this meant the man was trying to get the woman into a car to take her to hospital.
Saanich Fire and B.C. Ambulance responded initially and then called Saanich police because of concerns about the state of the home. “At the time our emergency service responded, she was not able to communicate with them,” Eassie said.
Linda remains in critical condition in hospital, connected to breathing tubes. Saanich police have not been able to interview her because of her condition.
Her husband was arrested, released and ordered to appear in court at a later date.
Police accuse him of failing to provide the necessities of life and “neglect for her overall care,” Eassie said. Mark Stupple was released on the condition that he not have contact with his wife.
Investigators have not inspected the house yet, Eassie said.
The single-family bungalow has old boxes in the side yard and a trailer with wood and debris in the driveway. The windows are covered with tin foil and shutters hanging off their hinges.
Unopened mail, Christmas decorations and plastic bags could be seen in a dusty small foyer leading to the main door.
Several neighbours confirmed Mark and Linda Stupple live there and recalled seeing emergency vehicles at the house but would not comment on the case. One neighbour said he saw Mark at work Wednesday night but would not say where Mark works.
Tim Curt, who owns the property, said the Stupples have lived there for more than 20 years. He said they have been good tenants and that he was unaware of the police investigation. “He told me, because she had MS . . . she was in intensive care, that’s all I know about it,” Curt said.
Curt said he was last at the property at Thanksgiving, but did not go inside the house. He spoke to Mark, but did not see Linda.
Joyce Stupple said police showed her pictures “of Linda in her condition” and “it was very bad.” She wouldn’t elaborate. “When the police showed me the pictures, no I don’t think she was [OK].”
The couple have been married 28 years, she said, but she went 22 years without talking to them. They reconnected in the last three years.
Joyce said the couple would visit her home but she never went to theirs. “I have never been to their house, and I gather that they never had anybody in their home at all,” Joyce said.
Since June, Mark has visited without Linda because her MS had deteriorated, which made her unable to climb stairs.
Joyce said she tried to help the couple by giving them money.
“I could not go over there, when they phoned they never wanted me to go over there.”
Crown prosecutors are still considering the charges recommended by Saanich police.
Eassie said the criminal charge of failure to provide the necessities of life — which applies to a spouse or to the caretaker of someone suffering from illness — is very rare. “In my 17 years of policing, I can’t think of any cases that fall under the same set of circumstances,” he said. “This would be very rare.”
Pala said after the call on Sept. 27, fire prevention officers were going to do an inspection for hoarding but that was cancelled by Saanich bylaw officers. He’s not sure why and no one from Saanich’s bylaw office returned calls for comment.
— With files from Lindsay Kines