Stephen Kowalsky

Stephen J. Kowalsky, the former live-in caretaker of an 80-year-old North Riverside man who was discovered in March malnourished and suffering from terrible bed sores, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of criminal neglect of an elderly person.

Kowalsky faced up to five years in prison, but on April 22 he walked out of Cook County Jail a free man after Judge Noreen Love sentenced him to 48 days in jail (41 of which he had already served).

Love also sentenced Kowalsky to two years’ probation and fined him $689, according to a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

While Kowalsky is free, the man he admitted neglecting, 80-year-old Charles Matuska, remains hospitalized at a suburban long-term care facility.

“I can’t believe it,” said Matuska’s friend and neighbor, Jay Mitchell, of the sentence handed to Kowalsky. “I see Charlie twice a week; he’ll never see home again.”

Asked how Matuska is faring, Mitchell responded, “I don’t know how he’s hanging in there, but he is.”

Kowalsky called North Riverside paramedics on March 5 to have them take Matuska to the hospital, later telling police the job of caring for the bed-ridden Matuska had gotten to be too much.

In the summer of 2012, Matuska’s sister, Linda Skolnik, hired Kowalsky to care for her brother around the clock. Matuska had gotten to know Kowalsky through a Brookfield home services agency.

But Skolnik, who lives in Pennsylvania, hired Kowalsky privately, skirting the agency. She paid Kowalsky $700 a week to live in Matuska’s home and care for him around the clock.

In December 2013, Kowalsky himself suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for a couple of weeks. Upon his discharge from the hospital, Kowalsky resumed caring for Matuska, be he was no longer up to the task.

Mitchell, who would visit Matuska at home often said Kowalsky hid evidence of Matuska’s condition, covering him in sheets or blankets and long-sleeved shirts. Matuska, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, didn’t complain.

Kowalsky was evicted from Matuska’s house shortly after police were notified of Matuska’s condition by a hospital social worker. He was arrested at a Countryside motel on March 13 and charged with neglect later that day.

He had been jailed since his arrest.