Lacey Fletcher’s emaciated body was discovered partially naked, sitting upright and partly submerged in a hole in a couch in her parents’ home January 3
Harrowing evidence photos revealed the full excruciating horror of Lacey Fletcher’s personal hell before she died on her parents’ couch caked in her own excrement in January.
The 36-year-old autistic woman had not moved from the sofa in the otherwise neat home of parents Clay and Sheila Fletcher, both 64, in the small town of Slaughter, Louisiana, for 12 years.
News of her gruesome death made headlines last week after authorities in East Feliciana Parish released a photo of the couch crater in which she lay that illustrated the gravity of her secret ordeal.
The horrific picture was one of dozens shown to a newly sworn-in grand jury on Monday in Clinton, Louisiana, during a sealed session that the media was not allowed to attend.
Now DailyMail.com has been given official access to the unseen photos and can reveal the unspeakable extent of Lacey’s suffering, who vanished from public view about 15 years ago.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Sheila Fletcher and Clay Fletcher were arrested Monday and indicted on second-degree murder charges for the death of their daughter, Lacey, 36
A distressing photo released by the coroner’s office shows a close-up of the leather couch Lacey was fused to. The coroner estimates that Lacey was sitting in that hole in the couch for the last 12 years
Additional photos seen by DailyMail.com – and not released to the public – Lacey, who was autistic – almost buried up to her shoulders in a couch crater and smothered in her own waste
They show Lacey’s emaciated and feces-covered body buried deep into a wide hole in the couch, the items strewn all around her the living room where she died, plus heartbreaking close-up shots of the appalling wounds that contributed to her death.
The horrific images helped convince the 12 panel members to order parents Sheila and Clay Fletcher, who were church-going pillars of their community, to be charged with second degree murder – and face a sentence of life without parole.
The two were arrested shortly afterwards, but released from jail on $300,000 bond each within 36 hours.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla, who sought murder charges and will prosecute the Fletchers at trial, shared the images with DailyMail.com at his office near the courthouse in Clinton.
He would not release them for publication, however. Nearly all were unpublishable due to their horrifying, graphic content.
In them, Lacey appears almost buried up to her shoulders in the wide and deep hole in the sofa that her bony body has worn over the years, rubbing away the cushioning.
She is slumped over on her left side with her right arm across the top half of her emaciated body near her neck.
She is naked apart from a small blue patterned t-shirt, which is pulled up on her chest and does not cover her breasts.
Her eyes are wide open, staring.
Her mouth is also open, revealing what appears to be a full set of front teeth.
Her legs are pulled up and crossed underneath her, ironically in a way that people can make themselves comfortable. But in Lacey’s case it was a posture of a bid to survive.
Former classmates said Lacey began to retreat into isolation in her teens as her autism accelerated and was home schooled after 9th grade
Lacey attended the former Brownsville Baptist Academy in Louisiana where she was featured (top left) on the school volleyball team – as revealed in pictures exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com
A photo of the two-story home located on Tom Drive in Slaughter where Lacey lived with her parents
Her face is covered in large and angry red blotches. Excrement is smeared over almost all her body. It is matted in her hair. It is even inside her ears.
The brown leather sofa that served as her prison is alongside a wall, with a gap of about 18 inches.
Astonishingly, to the couch’s right side is a gray commode and a neat pile of clothes.
And to the front, only a few feet away, is a cluttered low black table.
It is strewn with lotion bottles, some talcum powder, a pack of wipes, a nasal spray, a box with a lid that had a child’s photo on it, and other items that make it appear the Fletchers had the resources to clean their stricken only child.
Between the sofa and table are two neatly stacked boxes of DVDs. It is not possible to discern the titles, but some appeared to be child-like from the covers.
Desperately sad photos of Lacey taken later on a physician’s steel table for a forensic examination further reveal the extent of her harrowing and so far unexplained ordeal.
She weighed just 96lbs when discovered dead in the early hours of January 3.
Close-ups show the flesh on her buttocks appears to be literally worn or eaten away from the 12 years that she hadn’t moved from the couch.
There are large raw yellow areas where the skin has disappeared. Other back and buttock areas are so blackened it is impossible for a lay person to identify any shape or form.
Neighbors revealed Lacey (center) appeared as ‘a fun, normal kid’ before becoming more isolated from her neighborhood friends from the age of about 14
Sheila Fletcher, 64, was seen returning to East Feliciana Parish Jail – from she was released Tuesday night – to pick up her husband Wednesday morning after he posted $300,000 bond
Clay Fletcher is also charged with second-degree murder in the death of the couple’s 36-year-old autistic daughter Lacey Ellen Fletcher
Part of a video taken by Coroner Dr Ewell Bickham was also seen by DailyMail.com. He was among the first on the horror scene after a sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call – and documented the appalling spectacle.
He is breathing heavily as he moves the camera to the gap behind the sofa and the wall. A large wet patch is on the floor, directly behind Lacey’s body, which he believes is urine.
DA D’Aquilla said as he revealed the horror to us: ‘You can’t say she wasn’t in pain.’
Dr Bickham has revealed Lacey died from ‘severe medical neglect, which led to chronic malnutrition, acute starvation, immobility, acute ulcer formation, osteomyelitis which is bone infection which led finally to sepsis’.
Lacey was suffering from social anxiety and severe autism, he added. The last time she saw a physician was when she was 16.
D’Aquilla believes the couple will plead not guilty to second degree murder and their legal team will fight to have the charges reduced to at least manslaughter, which carries a zero to 40-year jail term.
But he is determined to battle that move. Yet if the reduced charge happens, he told DailyMail.com: ‘The Fletchers subjected Lacey to this for 20 years. They need to serve at least that time.’
The DA also put forward an intriguing thought surrounding the fact that Lacey was hidden from the world for around 15 years.
‘The thing that strikes me is that as Lacey hadn’t been seen for so long, what was to stop the Fletchers simply taking her body out at night and burying it in their back yard,’ he said. ‘No one would have known.’
He told DailyMail.com the couple’s first arraignment is likely to be within two months and a trial could commence as early as October.
Coroner Bickham told DailyMail.com that the images shown to the jury were so horrific and upsetting that medics were on standby for the 12 panel members.
Clay Fletcher, shown with Sheila in undated photo, is an officer of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Civil War Roundtable, which has a mission ‘to educate and foster an appreciation for the sacrifices made by all during the Civil War’
An undated photo of Clay, 65 and Sheila, 64, Fletcher standing in front of their Christmas tree
He added that the photos left those in the courtroom speechless.
‘When I was presenting the case and showed the pictures and gave the timeline the expressions of the grand jury was utter shock, he said. ‘Like the clock on the wall never moved again.
‘There was complete silence. Some jurors were gasping in horror. Some were staring in disbelief.’
Bickham also told the DailyMail.com that the case has been really hard on him personally and described Monday’s grand jury proceedings as ‘long emotional day’.
He added: ‘Seeing those photos again and reliving this traumatic experience again was really hard.’
Speaking outside court after the grand jury decision, the coroner revealed that Lacey had been on the couch for at least 12 years.
‘Evidence wise, a minimum of 12 years,’ he said. ‘Could be before that. At least 12 years. A terribly long period of time.’
Late Tuesday night, Sheila Fletcher walked out of East Feliciana Parish Jail – a little over 24 hours after her arrest. But husband Clay remained another night behind bars because his bond money could not be arranged in time.
Sheila 64, walked out of jail late Tuesday night after posting $300,000 bond – a little over 24 hours after her arrest
The mother, who is facing murder charges over the death of her autistic daughter Lacey, was snapped leaving East Feliciana Parish Jail
The bespectacled mom – pictured leaving in exclusive DailyMail.com photos – looked determinedly ahead and refused to answer questions we posed as she headed off with a hastily-arranged bail bondsman.
She had shed her orange prison jump suit and emerged at 10.30pm local time wearing a blue top with white spots and blue pants. Her short blond hair appeared in disarray.
She refused to say if she felt any remorse over Lacey, or explain how her daughter spent 12 years rotting away on a couch.
Husband Clay was released at 10.25am Wednesday after his $300,000 bond was sorted following the delay the previous evening.
Sheila was seen returning to the jail with the same bondsman to pick up her husband around 10am, wearing a dark red top, blue pants, white sneakers and carrying a large gold colored bag.
She emerged with Clay after he removed his orange jumpsuit and completed the necessary paperwork to allow him to walk to freedom.
Dressed in black, the husband also just stared ahead as he made his way swiftly to the pick-up truck parked close to the jail’s front reception door.
Neither of the couple responded to the same questions DailyMail.com asked Sheila the previous evening.