“We were following the wishes of our daughter” | Parents of woman who died ‘melted’ on couch to serve 20 years in prison

CLINTON — Clay and Sheila Fletcher, whose daughter Lacey tragically passed away under horrifying conditions while living on their couch, testified in an East Feliciana Parish courtroom Wednesday that they were merely carrying out her wishes before her death.

Judge Kathryn “Betsy” Jones sentenced the couple to 40 years in prison with 20 of those years suspended.

The Fletchers, both 66, pleaded no contest to manslaughter on February 5, 2024, a reduced charge from the second-degree murder allegations they originally faced. Lacey Fletcher was discovered dead, her body fused to a couch in their residence, and enveloped in filth, including feces, urine, and maggots, on January 2, 2022, at the Fletcher family home in Slaughter.

Lacey’s physical state was grievous, with bedsores penetrating to her bones, maggots infesting her, and her weight plummeting to a mere 96 pounds. She had also contracted Covid-19 and was battling multiple infections. Authorities estimated she may have been confined to the couch since 2010.

“We noticed social anxieties”

During Wednesday’s hearing, Clay Fletcher was the first of the two to take the stand. He told the court that his daughter had enjoyed a normal childhood until after her ninth-grade year when she experienced a significant shift.

“We noticed social anxieties because she would have to go to a new school and find new friends,” Clay Fletcher testified. According to his testimony, Lacey’s social circle dwindled during her freshman year, leading to the emergence of social anxieties as she transitioned to a new school. Despite efforts to homeschool her, Lacey’s interactions outside of her family circle were limited, exacerbating her anxieties and phobias.

“Her world had closed in on her more and more and more and it got to some phobias starting,” Clay said. “Like being scared of the dark and not sleeping in her bed. She stopped using the toilet after seeing a snake in a toilet on TV.”

The couch was her “sanctuary”

Clay Fletcher asserted that Lacey suffered from Agoraphobia and recounted how her fears progressively confined her to the couch, which he referred to as her “sanctuary.”

Despite their attempts to seek medical assistance, according to his testimony, including consulting a doctor in 2010 and considering telemedicine services, Lacey adamantly “resisted” any form of help.

The couple also reportedly had a pool built in 2012 because she enjoyed swimming, yet Lacey’s reluctance to leave the house intensified shortly thereafter.

“We didn’t want her to die”

Clay Fletcher said that at times, Lacey exhibited independence, and that she would care for herself. He even discussed a trip that his wife took in 2017 and Clay and Lacey were home together. He said Lacey “fed herself and dressed herself” while Sheila was gone.

But acknowledged her further decline following his mother’s passing in July 2021.

When asked if he was embarrassed by his special needs daughter, Clay Fletcher said, “We were following the wishes of our daughter. Lacey just didn’t want anyone outside her core, which was us.”

“We loved our daughter and we didn’t want her to die. We would do a lot differently. We’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Mindset is 20/20. She was resistant to everything. We loved our daughter and we didn’t want her to die.”

‘Did you let her make her own decisions knowing she was special needs?’

Sheila Fletcher, who became emotional on the stand, took the stand after her husband. She testified that Disney World served as Lacey’s “happy place,” recounting at least eight visits, including in 2011 and then again in 2017 when Lacey was 26.

Despite her daughter’s special needs, Sheila Fletcher maintained that she allowed Lacey autonomy in decision-making. She said that between 2011 and 2022, she worked in Zachary but went home for lunch everyday so that she could eat with her daughter. She says that Lacey would call or text her what she wanted to eat.

During questioning, Sheila Fletcher was asked if she let her daughter make her own decisions knowing she was special needs, and she testified, “Yes.”

She went on to say that she did not want to harm or kill her daughter and that Lacey never said she was in pain. She also testified that she did not think she needs to go to jail.

Testimony continues and UWK will have the latest after sentencing

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