Listen to this article

MONTICELLO — Criminal neglect charges have been filed against three people in the wake of the death of a 64-year-old Monticello man.

Monticello police Chief John Carter said "deplorable" living conditions were a contributing factor to Ronald Blankenship's death from "severe bilateral bronchopneumonia of the lungs and a closed-off larynx."

Mr. Blankenship died Monday in the home he shared with his sister and nephew in the 300 block of West Monroe Street.

Carter said Christie Brown, 61, and Mason Brown, 34, called police Monday evening to report Mr. Blankenship had died. Not living there but also in the home when police arrived was Justin Tatman, 37, of Bement, who said he was the power of attorney for Mr. Blankenship.

Monticello police, Piatt County sheriff's deputies and Illinois State Police detectives who went to the home noted the horrific conditions.

"There were three garbage bags filled with soiled adult diapers at the foot of his (Mr. Blankenship's) bed," Carter said. "The dogs — two were in a bedroom, two were in a porched area that appeared to have never been cleaned up."

Also in the home was an adult woman with Down syndrome who was taken into protective custody.

In a bizarre twist, Mason Brown had asserted in a Facebook post that his uncle had been murdered and that "some hours later, two masked gunmen arrived at my home in what I believe was an attempt to kill the rest of my family."

Carter said police found nothing to indicate a gunman had been in the home, noting that when police arrived Monday night, the grass showed no signs of disturbance.

Police returned to the home Thursday with a search warrant and made the arrests, Carter said.

Police took four dogs and three cats that Carter said had medical issues from the house; one of the dogs had to be euthanized because of its poor condition, the chief said.

On Friday, Christine and Justin Brown and Tatman were each criminally charged with neglect of Mr. Blankenship. The Class 2 felony charges allege that they neglected him during July and August. If convicted, they face penalties ranging from probation to three to 14 years in prison.

Carter said there was no indication of foul play in Mr. Blankenship's death, noting that preliminary autopsy results showed "there were no external injuries that would have caused death."

The chief said Mr. Blankenship suffered from severe pneumonia and had diabetes so bad that one of his fingers was rotting.

Both Browns were also charged with aggravated cruelty to a companion animal.

Judge Gary Webber set bond for Mason Brown and Tatman at $50,000 and for Christie Brown at $30,000.

State's Attorney Dana Rhoades said the investigation into the trio continues, including allegations that there may have been financial exploitation of Mr. Blankenship.

While the arrests were being made, Monticello High School and Washington Elementary School went on soft lockdown for about 20 minutes because the Monroe Street residence is close to those buildings.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit Staff writer Mary Schenk contributed to this report.