An octogenarian prisoner whose case has elicited sympathy from the community and raises the question of whether jail is the best place for people of advanced age with dementia had his day in court last week.
John Curwood, 80, pled guilty in Pike County Court to several charges against him. He is an Air Force veteran who has been institutionalized for depression in the past.
He signed a plea agreement prior to his April 15 court appearance. He was represented by Robert Bernathy of the Milford law firm Farley & Bernathy LLC. Thomas Farley of the same firm is the Pike County Prison Board solicitor.
The most serious charges listed in the agreement are for stalking and for terroristic threats — each carrying a recommended maximum sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $10,000 —for the following crimes:
● On Nov. 9, 2020, at 116 Hobblebush Court in Dingman Township, Curwood threatened to kill Erin Barboe with the intention to terrorize her.
● On Dec. 5, 2020, Curwood followed Erin Barboe while she was driving, following closely behind her vehicle until she parked at her residence.
● At various locations in Pike County from about Dec. 15, 2020, through Jan. 6, 2021, Curwood violated the terms of a protection order on four occasions.
● On Dec. 22, Curwood left Erin Barboe a voice message stating, “I hate you, you (expletive). You’re going to pay for this in either this life or the next.”
● On Jan. 6, Curwood left additional voicemail messages for Erin Barboe.
● Curwood slashed the tires of Robert Barboe while his vehicle was parked at their residence.
The plea agreement says Curwood committed these acts to place parties under the court’s protection in fear of bodily injury.
Curwood also pled guilty to criminal mischief for a Jan. 8 incident in the parking lot of the Walmart in Westfall Township, where Curwood used a cutting tool to slice into all four tires of a vehicle belonging to Homer Powell. This crime carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500. The plea agreement further listed three other charges of criminal mischief, one other charge of making terroristic threats, and one other stalking charge.
Curwood appeared in court virtually from the Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley. He said he’s not currently being treated for mental illness. His daughter, Joy McCann of Clearwater, Florida, told The Courier that he’d been treated for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She said he took medication for Alzheimer’s prior to going to jail, but that the medication was not given to him in jail. She has been seeking his release to an assisted living facility, preferably in the Veterans Administration system.
McCann said Bernathy told her he did not know Curwood had Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, that it would cost her $15,000 to have a psychiatrist testify in court, and that if released, Curwood would commit the same crimes again.
While in jail, Curwood fell from his bunk and was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for lacerations and an ear injury.
He is scheduled to appear in court on June 3 for sentencing. Bernathy asked for an earlier sentencing date, but Judge Gregory Chelak said no earlier dates were available.
In the courtroom after the plea agreement, Bernathy told the Courier that he never speaks to any media and would not answer questions or otherwise comment.
“I don’t talk to reporters,” he said.
McCann said she’d contacted a Lancaster attorney who said Curwood represented a textbook case of elder abuse, and that he was going to take it to the Pennsylvania attorney general.