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Mother, 90, in elder abuse case against Lodi fire marshal dies

Photo Credit: ABOVE): Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A 90-year-old Lodi woman who Bergen County authorities said was the victim of elder abuse at the hands of her son died yesterday, a little over a year after the incident.

Florence Wanco will be cremated, with no services planned, according to Santangelo Funeral Home in Lodi, which is handling the arrangements.

Lodi Fire Marshal Paul Wanco, 58, is accused of deliberately leaving her lying on the floor in her own urine and feces for nearly 15 hours on March 5, 2013.

Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said he will set a trial date next week.

“The trial will go forward, “Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Jessica Gomperts told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

An indictment returned by a grand jury in Hackensack charges Wanco with elder abuse and aggravated assault “for attempted serious bodily injury with indifference to the value of human life.”

Defense attorney Frank Cozzarelli has argued that prosecutors failed to prove that Wanco was legally responsible for the care of his mother, whose home he lived in with his family.

The defense attorney also contended that there was no evidence that Wanco was responsible for his mother’s fall and or that he had “formed the intent” to harm her. Wanco’s niece, Jennifer, was taking care of her, he said.

Gomperts countered that Wanco’s own statement to responding police officers who called emergency services to take his mother to the hospital proved that he was aware of her circumstances “and came home and went to sleep anyway.” She said he also told his niece that he would take care of his mother when he returned home.

When Florence Wanco arrived at the hospital she was dehydrated, had significant bruises and bed sores, and burns, caused byeither the fecal matter she was lying in or from the plywood floor, Gomperts said reports show. She also had four broken ribs, the assistant prosecutor said.

According to Jerejian, the judge: “The police told the grand jury conditions in the apartment were deplorable.  There were fecal stains, urine, sores, the victim was lying on the floor, on her side in discomfort, and was left for an extended period of time.

“He is the son, he lives in the house, the niece had just turned 18. To say she was completely responsible for the woman’s care – this is for a jury to decide.”

Jennifer Wanco, who was indicted along with her uncle last summer, entered Pre-Trial Intervention, a move that Bergen County prosecutors didn’t oppose. If she follows its requirements, she will be cleared of the charges.

They refused to sign off on the same arrangement for Paul Wanco.

FILE PHOTO (ABOVE): Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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