A 62-year-old former Milledgeville caregiver will spend the next 10 years of her life in prison.
Cora Mildred Mason, of the 100 block of Merry Drive, pleaded guilty to criminal charges during a Friday hearing before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Terry A. Massey.
Mason was sentenced under the Georgia First Offender Act.
Mason worked as a caregiver with a health care service before she was caught on an in-home security surveillance camera abusing a local elderly woman.
She was sentenced to 20 years with the first 10 years to be served in prison. The remainder of the sentence will be served on probation.
The judge also fined Mason $1,000.
If the defendant had opted for a jury trial and been convicted, she was looking at a possible 180 years in prison.
The case was prosecuted by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Ashley E. Herndon.
Mason, who was represented by defense attorney Sheri Smith, pleaded guilty to nine counts of exploitation and intimidation of a disabled adult, elder person or resident, according to Herndon.
Smith noted that her client had been abused in a domestic relationship and that she had difficulties growing up, Herndon said.
“Judge Massey wanted to make sure, as did the district attorney’s office, that a standard was set for the community and the caretakers in the community,” Herndon said. “We, the judge and the district attorney’s office, want people to know that was not a joke and this is not something you get a slap on the wrist for and you walk away from.”
Herndon said as sad as the case was for a lot of people, she hopes lessons are learned from it.
“I hope that awareness is brought to the general public for those who are having to pay for their parents to be cared for, either at home or somewhere else, that you really don’t know what is happening unless you have a camera up,” Herndon said. “And that’s what I told the family, in this case, is by the grace of God they decided to put cameras up.”
Herndon explained that Jeffrie McCormick got a feeling one day that something was just not right and she needed to see what was going on.
A few months before the crimes reportedly began taking place, McCormick and her husband put cameras up to see what was going on in the home when they were at work.
One day, when the victim’s son-in-law came home, he discovered his mother-in-law on the floor, Herndon said.
The McCormicks looked at the video footage that night to see what had happened and what led to the victim being found on the floor, the assistant district attorney told The Union-Recorder on Monday.
The defendant was working at Primecare Home Care Services at the time of the crimes, authorities said.
The crimes involved an 87-year-old woman, who was receiving care from Mason for five years. The victim, now deceased, was identified as Petronia Harper, who suffered from dementia.
“She (Mason) was a person they chose and trusted to stay with Mrs. Harper,” Herndon said.
“She (Mason) threatened her,” Herndon said. “In one of the videos, Cora Mason was in her face to the point that the dog started jumping at her, too.”
She said the nine criminal charges against Mason were the worst ones that happened to the victim.
District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley presented the case to a Baldwin County grand jury, which led to a nine-count indictment against Mason on charges of exploitation and intimidation of a disabled adult, elder person or resident.
At the time of the crimes, the deputy said in her report that she talked with the victim’s daughter at a local residence, along with a manager with the health care provider.
The deputy said the caregiver told her that the elderly woman had slid off the couch as she was attempting to get her to go to the restroom.
A portion of the in-home surveillance video captured water being thrown in the face of the victim and Mason yelling and shaking a finger in the elderly woman’s face in another incident.
“You can clearly see the victim retreating as much as possible on the sofa,” Veal said in the incident report. “Then, Mason pushes a card table away from in front of (the victim) and slaps her several times across the face. It appears that Mason continues to yell at (the victim) and then reaches over and grabs (the victim) by the shoulder and arm and pulls her in an upward manner.”