The two individuals charged in a case of alleged neglect related to their senior care facility have been indicted.
A Candler County grand jury returned a True Bill of Indictment last week, formally charging both Ralph Cowart and Meghan McCullough and officially beginning court proceedings in the case. The two were arrested by the GBI back in August after agents took out warrants on four counts: Neglect to a Disabled Adult/Elder Person, Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults/Elder Persons, Reckless Conduct, and Failure to Report a Case of Abuse of Disabled Adult/Elder.
The indictment alleges that Cowart, who is co-owner of Southern Manor in Candler County, and McCullough, who is the executive director of the facility, committed the acts some time between June 22 and 23, 2023. The GBI was called in by the Candler County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident on June 30. They were booked into the Candler County Jail a little over a month later – on August 1 – and bonded out shortly thereafter.
The Indictment read in open court on Friday formally charges Cowart and McCullough with two of the four charges purported by the GBI. It says the two committed the act of Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Elder Person, or Resident when they “unlawfully and being the person supervising the welfare of [the alleged victim], a disabled adult, did willfully deprive her of shelter to the extent that the health and well-being of said victim was jeopardized by ejecting her from Southern Manor where the victim was residing during the rain storm without notice that she would be removed at that date and time.”
The charge is a felony offense and carries a possible sentence of one to twenty years and a $50,000 fine.
Additionally, the grand jury returned a True Bill on ‘Reckless Conduct’ for Cowart and McCullough’s alleged roles in the acts when they “unlawfully endangered the bodily safety of [the alleged victim] by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that their actions would endanger the safety of said victim, and said disregard constituted a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in that situation by ejecting her from Southern Manor where the victim was residing during the rain storm without notice that she would be removed at that date and time.”
This charge is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The grand jury lists GBI Special Agent Stephen Morris and Private Investigator Kevin Waters as witnesses for the state. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public, however, so particulars of the case won’t be made public until later on in the proceedings process.
Attorneys for the two, however, are asking members of the community to hold off on passing judgment on the case before the evidence is made public.
Cowart’s attorney, Matt Hube, released the following statement:
Mr. Cowart strongly denies any wrongdoing in this matter. He did not commit any of the acts that are being alleged by the state. Mr. Cowart has dedicated his entire career to providing the highest quality care to the residents of the facilities he owns and operates. His actions related to this matter were taken to protect the well being of the residents and staff of Southern Manor at Candler. We look forward to appearing in court where we feel strongly that Mr. Cowart will be fully exonerated.
McCullough’s legal counsel, Keith Barber, also issued a statement:
On behalf of Meghan McCullough I would like to plainly state that the indictment in this matter alleges behavior that she has not, is not, nor would she ever participate in at any time. I would just like for everyone to wait until all the evidence comes out in this case to form an opinion as to what did or did not happen. I am very confident and have no doubt when all the facts are known that Mrs. McCullough will be totally exonerated in this matter.
The case has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Tommy Smith of the Middle Judicial Circuit.