PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - Pasco County Sheriff's Office deputies say Chuck Lyerly severely abused a 93-year-old woman he has been caring for the past three years. But Lyerly, 54, says that's completely false.
Marion Baldwin, 93, is at Medical Center of Trinity being treated for broken ribs and neglect.
Lyerly told ABC Action News he has been living with and caring for Baldwin for the past three years.
"I love her," said Lyerly.
"I would die for her...I've done nothing but taken the best care of her," he explained.
Baldwin ended up at the hospital on Friday. According to Lyerly, he called 911 because two days prior, Baldwin had slipped in the bathroom and bruised her chest.
Over the weekend, deputies arrested Lyerly and charged him with elder abuse. He says the allegations are false.
Lyerly says Baldwin complained of soreness, but did not want to go to the hospital.
"She is delicate and when she tells me not to touch her, I don't touch her," Lyerly explained.
Deputies noted that when Baldwin arrived at the hospital, she was not well.
"Her eyes were crusted shut," explained Melanie Snow with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "Her mouth was very dry. Her lips were flaky. She had a feeding tube that had turned black."
According to Snow, nurses immediately documented her health issues and called the abuse hotline.
Lyerly is adamant that the abuse took place at the hands of nurses. Lyerly isn't related to Baldwin, but he calls her his "mother." He claims when he arrived to visit Baldwin, she had not been fed.
He also said that her mouth and eyes were crusted shut and he had to remove her oxygen mask to clean off her face.
That's when Lyerly called deputies and the sheriff's office became involved.
"After I call the sheriff's department, they charged me with abuse. If there was abuse going on, wouldn't they have seen it when the paramedics came?" Lyerly said.
The hospital denies all the allegations.
In an arrest report, it states that nurses became nervous when they walked into the room and found Baldwin's oxygen mask in his hands. Nurses said Lyerly refused to put the mask on.
"I was cleaning her off. If that is abuse, then I am guilty," Lyerly said.
Lyerly did address the feeding tube issue with ABC Action News.
He said he ordered new feeding tubes but they were not delivered on time.
"It took the longest time to simply get a Y-port," Lyerly said.
Neighbor Phoebe Lakin, who is a medical assistant, told ABC Action News Lyerly called her over to take a look at Baldwin back in May.
The home was filthy and Baldwin was in a recliner, according to Lakin.
Lakin said what she saw prompted her to call an abuse hotline and then the New Port Richey Police.
"He was in the kitchen using a screwdriver to clean her feeding tube," recalled Lakin. "I was like, 'Are you kidding me?"
Lyerly doesn't deny using a screwdriver on the tube. He explained that while waiting for the new tubes to arrive, it was the only way get the tube open to continue feeding Baldwin.
"I had to keep cleaning the same Y-port over and over. That is why I pulled it out with a screwdriver because it got all gummed up and bacterialized," he said.
Police did do a welfare check in July and determined everything to be fine.
"If I was abusing her and neglecting her, why wasn't I gone a long time ago?" Lyerly questioned.
Lyerly said a judge has now banned him from visiting Baldwin in the hospital.
Hospital staff confirmed that Baldwin is doing fine. However, the sheriff's office says Baldwin will be sent to hospice and it is not clear how much longer she will live.
A spokesperson for Medical Center of Trinity released the following statement regarding Lyerly's accusations:
"Medical Center of Trinity is proud to provide high quality medical care to our patients. As part of this commitment, we are obligated to be alert to and report concerns to the appropriate authorities. We are appreciative of the outstanding efforts our staff provides in caring for our community each and every day."