Woman reaches plea deal after disabled daughter found dead amid filth

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A 50-year-old Louisiana woman has accepted a 50-year sentence as part of a plea agreement in the death of her 25-year-old disabled daughter, who died dehydrated and in filth.

Karen Johnson Harrison of the Plainview area pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder of Cyra Shantelle Marie Harrison, who had cerebral palsy, The Town Talk reported.

The coroner’s report described Cyra Harrison’s death as homicide. She died from failure to thrive and dehydration due to cerebral palsy and neglect, according to the report, which estimated her weight at death at 65 to 70 pounds (29 to 32 kilograms).

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Karen Harrison had been scheduled for trial this week on two cruelty charges and one count of second-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence.

“Karen Harrison will be over 100 years old at the conclusion of this sentence,” said the prosecutor, Rapides Parish Assistant District Attorney Brian Cespiva. “We’ve effectively secured a life sentence without the inherent risks of a trial.”

Rapides Parish Sheriff’s deputies answered a call about a natural death in 2018 but called detectives, who arrested Karen Harrison and a couple who shared the house days later.

The victim’s body was found on a mattress covered with rotting food, dog food and bodily fluids, and the mattress lay on the floor of a house littered with animal feces and infested with roaches and flies, the report said.

The two other suspects, Glen Elva Maricle and his wife, Marilyn Sue Maricle, are still awaiting trial.

All three were indicted on charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, cruelty to the infirm and cruelty to a juvenile.

District Court Judge Chris Hazel sentenced Karen Harrison to the maximum 40 years for manslaughter and 10 years for conspiracy, to run consecutively. Time spent in jail before trial will count toward the sentence.