November 23, 2017

Mio couple arraigned after being granted appeal

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MIO –– After a successful appeal of their previous case, Carl Wayne Bruce and wife Rachel Lynn Bruce pleaded guilty to vulnerable adult abuse in the first degree and involuntary manslaughter during an arraignment held Thursday, Oct. 19.

Both were originally sentenced to life in prison for the alleged murder of Herman Ritchey Jr. of Mio on June 26, 2015. But after being granted a new trial by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the two accepted plea resolutions for the lesser charges Thursday in Oscoda County’s 23rd Circuit Court.

Both trials were overseen by 23rd Circuit Court Judge Laura Frawley of Alcona County.

As a result of the plea, the prosecution dismissed the felony murder charges and the vulnerable adult abuse in the second degree charges in exchange for the Bruces agreeing to the new charge.

Prosecutor Cassie Morse-Bills said Ritchey, who was Rachel Bruce’s 72-years-old father, was reported dead by the couple Oct. 24, 2012. Investigators discovered Ritchey’s severely malnourished body with large open sores and scabs in soiled bedding in his bedroom in the Bruces’ home, where they were his caretakers from March 8, 2011, until Oct. 24, 2012.

Ritchey suffered from dementia for approximately two years prior to his death.

An investigation concluded Ritchey had not been properly administered his prescribed medications, and had been locked inside a closed bedroom where he would be found crawling on the floor, and would pound on the door for hours pleading to be let out and for food and water, Morse said in a press release.

Both Carl and Rachel Bruce admitted under oath that they failed to provide medical care, prescribed medication, nutrition, hygiene care and mental care in gross negligence, leading to serious mental and physical ailments. They also admitted that when Ritchey would plead to be let out of his room, they would turn up the volume on the TV to drown out the noise.

The Bruces both gave up their right to trial in exchange for the plea bargain. The sentence agreement included a minimum 10 years in prison with a maximum of 15 years, rather than the life sentence they were originally mandated.

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