BOISE, Idaho — Police say an audio recording that captured the agonized cries of a disabled man being severely scalded in the bath exposed inconsistencies in his caregiver's explanation of what happened.
Omar Hamadi, 24, is facing a felony charge of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the death of 38-year-old Benjamin Reed, who had advanced Huntington's disease and needed help with everything from getting dressed, to feeding himself, to using the bathroom.
Hamadi had been hired to help care for Reed through the Boise-based home heathcare company A Caring Hand about a month before the incident. According to prosecutors, the caregiver drew a too-hot bath and left Reed in it May 16, 2019, resulting in burns so severe that the disabled man's skin was "sloughing off," according to paramedics.
Reed died from his injuries at a Salt Lake City burn unit eleven days later.
Detective John Lau testified at Hamadi's preliminary hearing Monday that the suspect originally told him that Reed had soiled himself, so Hamadi helped him onto the toilet in the upstairs bathroom, then left him alone for less than a minute to dispose of Reed's diaper and place his clothing in the laundry room.
Hamadi told Lau that he then heard sounds of distress from Reed, who was mostly non-verbal.
"He said he saw Mr. Reed standing in the bathtub, and he was crying out in pain," he said.
Another man at the house called another roommate, and paramedics ultimately turned up to take Reed to the hospital for treatment.
As the investigation continued, Lau testified, police found out that a home surveillance system had been running during the incident. The video shows the living room, not what was happening with Hamadi and Reed in the bathroom upstairs, but the recording captured audio that proved Hamadi had not told police the whole truth, Lau said.
"The video showed differently - the video showed that he was upstairs with Reed while the bathwater was running, and that Hamadi was coercing Reed to get into the bathtub," he said.
In the audio, which was played in court, a clearly-frustrated Hamadi can be heard telling Reed to get into the bathtub, at times raising his voice and swearing at the other man.
"You have to take a shower. Take a shower! You smell like s---!" Hamadi can be heard saying over the sound of running water. "Come on, you have to get in the shower. Get in the shower. Get in the shower."
The audio captures the sounds of the disabled man whimpering and crying out in pain.
Prosecutor Tanner Stellmon said it was clear the caregiver never bothered to make sure the water was a safe temperature.
"He was negligent in administering these bathtub responsibilities, or bathing responsibilities," Stellmon said. "It required no more than a check with just his hand of the water temperature to determine that it was too hot."
Even after Hamadi realized that Reed was hurt, Stellmon said, he directed the other person in the house to call Reed's friend and roommate before dialing 911.
But the defendant's attorney, Edwina Elcox, said that Hamadi did not purposely injure Reed and suggested that prosecutors were overcharging the case, arguing that it "should have been a misdemeanor crime from the get-go."
Hamadi was arrested on the felony warrant in October, nearly five months after Reed's death.
"Even in the worst-case scenario, this was not intentional whatsoever," Elcox said. "This was truly an awful and tragic accident."
But Judge Russell Comstock was unconvinced, ruling the case be bound over to district court. Hamadi, who is currently out of jail on a $10,000 bond, is due to appear in court again Jan. 15 for an arraignment.