Former caregiver gets 30 years - - Jackson, MS

Former caregiver gets 30 years

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A Jackson woman is headed to prison for perpetrating crimes against the mentally disabled people she was paid to help. Now, Stephanie Fields will have more than three decades to think about what she did.

Family members of the people victimized by Fields packed Judge Winston Kidd's Hinds County Circuit Courtroom Wednesday morning.

Fields will be spending the next 30 years of her life in prison. Kidd showed little mercy in his sentencing.

"From this court's perspective, you had many of them living as animals," Kidd said to Fields, in reference to the residents in her care.

Fields' victims lived in deplorable conditions under her care -- no heat, no hot water and little food.

Her crimes went beyond exploiting the 15 mentally disabled people she watched. She was sentenced to 10 years for each of those counts. She also received 15 years for identity theft, and then the maximum of five years for accessory after the fact culpable negligent manslaughter, for her role in the death of Janis Hollins.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Hollins' brother, Doug Hollins. "Is a death worth 5 years? She was practically murdered."

In an emotional statement, Doug Hollins addressed Judge Kidd, seeking the maximum penalty and trying to be a voice for his dead sister.

"When they see Ms. Fields, they can go to the jailhouse and visit her. When I want to visit my sister I go to the gravesite," Doug Hollins said in court.

Janis Hollins died of hypothermia while under the watch of an employee of Fields'.

Fields, 35, took her chances and begged for leniency -- a plan that backfired.

"She was my family," Fields said in court, "because I'm the one that took care of her when her family did not come to see her."

Fields' scrutiny of the victim's family was not well received, and it sealed her fate.

Defense attorney Faye Peterson says this is a tragic, cautionary tale.

"We really ought to look over what we're doing to help mentally ill people and where we're placing them," she said after the sentencing. "Who's taking care of them?"

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