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A woman who watched her 87-year-old mother fall down the stairs and left her there for five hours should face manslaughter charges for the mother’s eventual death, New York’s Appellate Division, 2nd Department ruled Friday. The manslaughter case involving Paula Sanford began two years ago in her Brooklyn apartment building. Sanford, a geriatric nurse, told investigators that she had an argument with her mother, Clarice Gray, who was yelling at Sanford and pointing a finger at her. Sanford said she grabbed her mother’s finger; when the woman pulled it away, she fell down the stairs. Sanford said she tried to help her mother, but was told, “Get out of here.” Sanford then left the house to run errands. She returned five hours later and found her mother, who was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and had a heart condition, a hip injury and arthritis, dead at the bottom of the stairs. Sanford tried to resuscitate the woman and then called 911. When first questioned about bruises on Gray’s body, Sanford told police that her mother bruised easily because she took blood thinners. But she later admitted that Ms. Gray had last taken such medication four years earlier. An autopsy of the woman revealed fractured ribs, contusions of the right lung and extensive bruising. The cause of death was determined to be blunt impact injuries to the torso. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office indicted Sanford on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and assault. Sanford challenged the indictment, and in April 2004 Acting Supreme Court Justice Matthew J. D’Emic said the woman was guilty of poor judgment, but not manslaughter. “Ms. Sanford’s leaving for five hours was a mistake, causing the direst consequence,” Justice D’Emic wrote. “Yet, it was not criminal.” In a brief ruling last week in People v. Sanford, a unanimous 2nd Department panel reversed. The appeals court determined that the evidence against Sanford could support a guilty verdict if unexplained and uncontradicted at a trial. “Thus, the indictment should not have been dismissed,” the court wrote. Justices David S. Ritter, Gloria Goldstein, Peter B. Skelos and Robert A. Lifson concurred on the ruling. Assistant District Attorneys Leonard Joblove, Victor Barall and Ruth E. Ross appeared for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Christopher Renfroe, who represented Sanford, declined to comment.

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