PROVO A Utah County prosecutor tried Tuesday to derail a motion to decrease the bail amount of a jailed woman who is accused of abusing her 87-year-old mother so severely that the woman is still on a feeding tube and breathes with the help of an oxygen tube.
Lois Sorensen, 46, is charged in 4th District Court with a second-degree felony of aggravated abuse of a disabled or elderly adult for alleged harm she caused while serving as a caretaker for her mother, Leona, in her mother's Palmyra home. Palmyra is a small town southwest of Springville.
"The mother is presently living in a convalescent center," said Deputy Utah County Attorney Doug Finch. "(She) was injured so severely ... they don't know if she's going to live."
Sorensen was arrested Dec. 21 after Utah County sheriff's deputies noticed numerous injuries on the victim, Leona Sorensen, who originally wouldn't say how she got hurt.
Lois Sorensen told officers the injuries were from protecting her mother against attacking dogs, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in 4th District Court.
But at the Mountain View Hospital in Payson, doctors said they thought the numerous injuries were from abuse. Leona Sorensen suffered injuries to her head, face, chest, right and left arms, elbows, forearms, hands, thighs, knees, legs, multiple broken ribs and collapsed lungs, according to the affidavit.
The elderly woman also had open sores, bruises and was dehydrated and malnourished, according to the affidavit.
A hearing Tuesday was a competency review, and reports from two doctors indicate that Sorensen is competent to proceed with her case.
With that decision, defense attorney Lisa Crawford asked that Sorensen's bail be lowered from $50,000 cash-only to $5,000 cash or bond.
"My client is 46 years old, she has no previous convictions," Crawford said. "She does have siblings, some of whom she is on the outs with, but she does have family here."
Finch was against lowering the bail and said he worried that the living arrangements to which Crawford referred meant Sorensen would move back into her mother's home if let out of the Utah County Jail.
Finch said Sorensen's siblings have told him she doesn't have permission to be in the home. He also said the siblings shared with him new concerns about financial improprieties related to Sorensen and their mother's money.
But Crawford questioned Finch's reliance on sibling's statements, given the acknowledged family hostility and pending civil cases within the family.
"I don't think the court should rely so much on family members (she's) had years of fighting with," Crawford said.
However, Judge Fred Howard said he was concerned about the living arrangements and lowered bail to $9,999 cash-only, which will allow Sorensen to participate in jail programs.
Howard told Crawford she could re-address the bail amount later if she could provide documentation of available living arrangements other than the mother's old home.
In the mean time, the case will go to a preliminary, or evidentiary, hearing March 18. Finch said he may call medical experts to testify about the alleged abuse, the worst he said he's ever seen."It was horrible," he said. "The pictures are horrible."