By Mike LaBella
---- — 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.
On May 14, 2010, Haverhill police charged Mary Clark with abusing the disabled couple. On May 17, 2010, one of the children living in the house at the time of the fire — a 10-year-old boy — was charged with two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Mary Pina, 50, and 6-year-old Daquon Davis, Mary Clark’s grand-nephew. Investigators said the boy set the fire while playing with a lighter. Because the boy’s case was handled in juvenile court, his name has not been made public.
According to city building inspectors, the Warren Street house had twice as many people living there than allowed by city code. According to court documents, 12 people lived there at the time of the fire, and Mary Clark used government money to care for six of them — the Pinas and four young children who were related to her.
On March 23, 2011, an Essex County Grand Jury in Salem Superior Court indicted Mary Clark and her husband Ford Clark. Each was charged with two counts of assault and battery on a disabled person for their treatment of the mentally disabled people.
Abuse charges against Ford Clark were subsequently dismissed in November 2011 after Superior Court Judge John Lu agreed with the assertion of Ford Clark’s lawyer Joseph Collins of Salem, that the grand jury did not hear sufficient evidence to support an indictment in the case. Lu granted Collins’ motion to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning the district attorney’s office could bring the case before a new grand jury with more information.
If convicted, Mary Clark faces a maximum penalty of three years in state prison on each of the two counts.
According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, Mary Clark was arraigned on the charges of assault and battery on a person over 60 or a disabled person April 28, 2011 in Salem Superior Court.
At a hearing on June 8, 2011, a judge set bail at $2,500 cash. Conditions of Mary Clark’s release included home confinement with a monitoring bracelet and no communication either directly or indirectly with any complaining witness. On Sept. 21, 2011, Clark was indicted on two counts of witness intimidation.
According to police, Joseph Pina said Mary Clark told him to lie about their living conditions to protect her. Clark was arraigned on the charges of witness intimidation Sept. 27, 2011 in Salem Superior Court, where her bail was set at $50. She posted $2,500 bail on Dec. 10, 2012, and posted $50 bail Dec. 11, 2012. On Jan. 24, her conditions of release were amended to allow for medical appointments, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.