Readsboro pair deny abuse, neglect charges

BENNINGTON — Two Readsboro residents have denied that they neglected a man with an intellectually disability who was in their care.

Max C. Braun, 24, and Marla B. Florence, 58, each pleaded not guilty in Bennington criminal court on Feb. 13 to misdemeanor counts of abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Judge John W. Valente released them both without bail and ordered they not have contact with the man. Braun will return to court on April 6; Florence, April 2.

The investigation involved a 19-year-old man who is nonverbal and also an insulin dependent diabetic, according to court documents. He attends a Windham County program for adults with special needs.

In a court affidavit, Sgt. Jesse Robson with the Vermont State Police barracks in Shaftsbury wrote that an Adult Protective Services (APS) investigator requested a welfare check for the man. A Bennington County Sheriff's Department deputy visited the Readsboro apartment on Jan. 18 and "made observations... which were causes for concern related to the health of [the man]." A state police sergeant and trooper on Jan. 24 observed "unfit living conditions" when they accompanied the APS investigator to the home.

Braun and Florence are family members and responsible for the man's care, according to the affidavit.

The man's condition had not improved later, when Robson spoke with Erica Marthage, state's attorney for Bennington County, according to the affidavit.

The man "often shows up for school in clothing that is unsuitable for wear, and in poor hygiene" and "in an apparent state of malnutrition and neglect," a teacher for the program that the man attends told Robson on Friday. Further, the teacher said that Florence recently accused someone with the school of burning the man with a cigarette, "an injury previously unknown to school staff until they lifted up his shirt."

When troopers returned to the apartment on Friday, Braun was not present, but troopers spoke with Florence. One trooper did note an improvement over the Jan. 24 visit.

"I asked [Florence] more than once if she was prompted to clean the house by the [APS] investigation going on, or did she decide on her own that the situation needed a remedy," Robson wrote. "I could not get a straight answer from her."

Troopers arrested and processed Florence on Friday. She declined to give a statement to police. Braun later appeared at the Wilmington Police Department and was processed there. It wasn't clear whether he gave a statement.

Ed Damon can be reached at, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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