RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — A La Cresta couple who owns and operates a home care facility near Murrieta was indicted Monday by a grand jury on several charges including murder, child endangerment, and lewd acts on a dependent adult.
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Michelle Louise Morris Kerin, 80, and her husband, Edward Lawrence “Larry” Kerin, 79, were indicted on charges involving several victims that include child endangerment and dependent adult endangerment likely to cause great bodily injury or death, and lewd acts on a dependent adult. The indictment also charges Michelle Morris Kerin with murder.
The indictment stems from an investigation into the April 6, 2019 death of 17-year-old Diane “Princess” Ramirez, who was living at the Kerin’s facility, the Morris Small Family Home in the La Cresta area of unincorporated Riverside County, near Murrieta.
The 17-year-old suffered from cerebral palsy.
“She was my fighter. I always called her that,” Angel Cadena, Diane’s mother, said.
Her daughter died a day after her last visitation and shortly before she was due to bring her back home from foster care.
“She was a very smart girl. She was able to communicate with a speaking device that they never allowed to be charged,” Cadena said.
The state placed Cadena’s daughter in the Murrieta facility in 2018 after she was evicted from her home, had the electricity shut off and someone reported that her daughter’s medical devices were not properly charged.
“They took her from me because they said they were gonna protect her,” Cadena said. “But yet, where is my daughter now? She’s not with me. She’s six feet under the ground.”
The investigation uncovered several years of physical abuse and neglect of dependent children and adults, along with sexual abuse against three dependent adults who had been placed in the home, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. Many of the victims were non-ambulatory, unable to speak, and required 24-hour care.READ MORE: 50 Arrested In LAPD Investigation Into Drug Dealers Preying On Skid Row Residents
Prosecutors say Michelle Morris Kerin refused to seek help for Diane, even when she vomited blood several times, had inconsistent vital signs, and had been in pain for as many as nine hours. Edward Kerin was charged with child neglect of Diane before she died.
The investigation also found that some of the adult dependent residents lacked the mental capacity to give consent but had engaged in sexual activities facilitated and encouraged by the Kerins, the District Attorney’s Office said. The facility was also found to not be properly staffed for 24-hour care and its medical records were not properly maintained.
“These people had no compassion. They had no heart,” Cadena said.
What did have, according to Diane’s mother, is a lot of money. Cadena said the foster system paid the couple $7,000 a month to take care of her daughter and that the couple had around 10 other people in the facility when her daughter died.
Even before the 17-year-old died in their care, numerous complaints had been filed against the Morris Small Family Home, including allegations of clients with red marks from staff and a child duct taped to a wheelchair.
However, nearly all of the investigations said the claims couldn’t be substantiated because many of the clients were nonverbal.
Cadena said she wonders if her daughter had not died, how many more people in the home could have been abused.
“There’s a lot of kids in the system, but something needs to be changed, especially when they’re special needs children,” she said.
The Kerins were arrested on Aug. 5. Edward Kerin is free after posting $35,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 17.
Michelle Morris Kerin is being held on $1 million bail, and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.MORE NEWS: 'Gentle And Generous Soul': Bruno, LA Zoo's 42-Year-Old Orangutan, Dies Suddenly
Anyone with information on the case or may have been a victim can contact DA Investigator Tom Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.