Joseph Duffy, the man accused of causing the 2011 death of his disabled wife through a combination of neglect and abuse, pleaded not guilty to the charge on Aug. 10 at the Maybrook courthouse.

Judge Geary Kull, who during Duffy’s bond hearing in July called the circumstances surrounding the death of 61-year-old Mary Jane Duffy “the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen,” entered the plea and set Duffy’s next court date for Sept. 20. Judge Noreen Love, for whom Kull was substituting last week, will handle the case in the future.

Duffy, 60, remains held at Cook County Jail with his bond set at $75,000.

Brookfield police, responding to a request by a local social service agency, discovered Mary Jane Duffy unresponsive, curled in a fetal position and covered in bedsores on Aug. 23, 2011. Police also reported that she was suffering from late-stage dementia, was missing teeth and had severe bruises and multiple bone fractures.

The social services agency, LaGrange-based Aging Care Connections, had received two anonymous phone calls complaining that Mary Jane Duffy was being neglected by her husband.

Mary Jane Duffy was hospitalized but died Sept. 1, 2011. The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide due to severe neglect and abuse.

Her death sparked a 10-month police investigation culminating with the July 11 arrest of Joseph Duffy. He was subsequently indicted by a Cook County grand jury and charged with one count of criminal abuse or neglect of a senior or disabled person.

In the wake of that charge, the Landmark discovered, through records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, that the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General was aware of the pattern of alleged abuse by Joseph Duffy.

But the Department of Human Services denied the release of the records relating to services provided by the department to Mary Jane Duffy. In the denial response, Patricia M. Brown, assistant general counsel for the Illinois Department of Human Services, stated that the records were exempt from disclosure because “no confidential information obtained concerning customers may be disclosed without the consent of that individual.”

The Landmark has requested a review of the denial by the public access counselor for the Illinois Attorney General.

Special investigator appointed

On July 27, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the appointment of a special investigator to “reform the investigative operations of the Inspector General’s Office.”

The appointment of the special investigator came on the heels of a series of articles by the Belleville News-Democrat in June and July exposing that the Office of the Inspector General did not investigate the deaths of more than 50 disabled people who had been abused. Once they died, their cases were simply closed.

The series led to the resignation of the inspector general in early July, and legislation is now pending in the Illinois General Assembly that would require the Office of the Inspector General to notify local police if a disabled person they know to have been abused dies.

In response to an inquiry by the Landmark last week for information regarding any investigation into Mary Jane Duffy’s death, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Kayce Ataiyero said in an emailed statement, “The Duffy case is pending review as part of the top-to-bottom review of the [Office of the Inspector General] that is currently being conducted by the governor’s appointed special investigator. No additional information will be available until the review is complete.”

Records previously released by the Department of Human Services to the Landmark show that the Office of the Inspector General responded to complaints of abuse against Mary Jane Duffy at least four times, beginning in 2003. The office’s investigators documented the alleged abuse and in 2007 referred the case of the department’s Division of Rehabilitation Services for the development of a treatment plan.

But the Office of the Inspector General made no attempt to intervene and remove Mary Jane Duffy from her husband’s care and apparently did not follow up on her case after its final report on Aug. 14, 2009.

At that time, Mary Jane Duffy was being cared for at the British Home in Brookfield after being treated at a local hospital for injuries she suffered in a fall suffered after Joseph Duffy reportedly took away her walker.

On Sept. 3, 2009, Mary Jane Duffy won an order of protection against her husband after telling British Home authorities she didn’t want to return home. Days later, she was transferred to another nursing facility, and the order of protection was terminated on Sept. 24, 2009. In October 2009, Joseph Duffy demanded and won his wife’s release from the nursing home.

In its Aug. 14, 2009 report, the Office of the Inspector General’s investigator assigned to the case stated Mary Jane Duffy was no longer eligible for services because she had been placed in a nursing home.

There is no record indicating that the Office of the Inspector General followed up to see if Mary Jane Duff’s living arrangements ever changed.