HAVERHILL — A woman who forced her mentally challenged brother and his disabled wife to live in the wet, dank basement of her Warren Street home while she held their Social Security checks, pleaded guilty to neglect and abuse charges yesterday, but was able to walk out of Salem Superior Court a free woman.
Mary Clark, a 57-year-old grandmother, was sentenced to 18 months in state prison, but was given credit for 621 days she already served in jail. She will spend the next five years on probation and was ordered to have no contact with her brother Joseph Pina and another sibling, Charles Pina, per order of Judge David Lowy.
Joseph Pina’s wife Mary, a target of Clark’s abuse, died in a November 2008 fire at Clark’s home, after which the abuse and neglect was revealed.
Prosecutor James Gubitose said in court yesterday that from 2006 to 2008, while Clark was caretaker for Joseph and Mary Pina, she forced the couple to live in the basement at 22 Warren St. The ceilings were low and Mary, who was tall, had difficulty walking there and was forced to constantly crouch. The dirt floor there was often wet and heating and lighting in the basement were insufficient. The door into the basement measured just three feet tall and locked from the outside, he said.
Mattresses pulled from the basement were loaded with fungus and furniture was waterlogged, he said.
“The basement was unsanitary and that’s a kind word,” Gubitose said.
After a city Board of Health inspection, Clark was told the couple could not live in the basement, so she moved Joseph and Mary Pina to a makeshift attic bedroom with two other young children, he said.
Then, on Nov. 7, 2008, a fast-moving fire broke out in the attic, killing Mary and a 6-year-old boy, Daquon Davis, Clark’s grand-nephew. City officials said the attic room had not been approved as a habitable living space.