HAVERHILL — A local woman who allegedly mistreated a mentally-disabled couple is out on bail and awaits a trial on charges of assault and battery on a disabled person. Police said her disabled brother and his disabled wife were living in poor conditions in the basement of the home she lived in with her husband.
Mary Clark, 56, is currently confined to her home and must wear a monitoring bracelet pending a trial scheduled for Oct. 15 in Salem Superior Court, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office. Her conditions of release were recently amended to allow for medical appointments, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators said that in August 2008, a city health inspector visited the 22 Warren St. home of Mary Clark and her husband, Ford Clark, now 72, to check on a couple living in the cellar.
The inspector spoke to Mary Clark, who agreed to move the mentally disabled couple — her brother Joseph Pina and his wife, Mary Pina — to an upstairs room, investigators said. She later made them a bedroom in the attic.
Three months later, on Nov. 7, 2008, a fast-moving fire broke out in the makeshift attic bedroom, killing the disabled woman and a 6-year-old boy. City officials said the attic room had not been approved as habitable living space.
The tragedy kicked off an investigation that revealed a home where the disabled couple had been living in worse conditions than city inspectors had realized, and where too many people were living based on the size of the dwelling.
After the fire, Joseph Pina told investigators that he and his wife were kept in a dark and dank basement with no bathroom facilities, no windows, no real source of heat, and a dirt floor where they kept their bed. He told police that if he and his wife wanted access to the house, and to a bathroom, they had to pass notes through the cellar door leading to the kitchen. A family member later told The Eagle-Tribune that his sister, Mary Clark, had cared for their brother Joseph Pina for years and that Joseph chose to live in the basement at 22 Warren St. and that the conditions were not as Joseph described them to police.