HOUSTON – A grand jury has declined to indict twin brothers accused in their elderly mother’s death, an attorney for the brothers said Tuesday.
Edward Larry Berndt and Edwin Christian Berndt, both 48, were arrested and charged with murder in mid-April after police said they found the men living with their mother’s decomposing body.
"All the applicable evidence in this case was presented to the grand jury,” Assistant District Attorney Donna Hawkins said Tuesday. “Based upon that evidence, they elected to no-bill the cases. This effectively ends the prosecution of the brothers."
The twins were released on bond shortly after their arrests and have been living at an assisted living facility. Their attorney, Robert Scardino, said Tuesday they will likely move in with relatives now that the charges have been dismissed.
"(This case was) unusual and tragic,” Scardino said. “It's just hard to imagine living under the circumstances those two men lived with their dead mother for three months."
According to police, the Berndt brothers said they were watching the BCS Championship game on Jan. 10 when their 89-year-old mother, Sybile Berndt, came in "ranting and raving." The twins said she slipped and fell, and they left her on the floor without food, water or medical attention for three days until she died.
After that, police said the twins never moved their mother. By the time investigators arrived for a welfare check on the woman, the body was severely decomposed.
Police said Sybile Berndt’s body was dressed in a nightgown that was pulled up under her arms, and insects were crawling all over her.
According to police, the twins said they never called for help because they couldn’t afford medical care for their mother, and after she died, they couldn’t afford a funeral.
Scardino said doctors believe his clients are autistic.
"The boys were born mentally disabled. They were born oxygen-deprived and I think that was the source of their problem with being able to make decisions and live in society, live a life with other people," Scardino said.
He said they depended on their mother to take care of them, and once she was gone, their health suffered.
"It doesn’t appear that there was any hygiene and baths or showers taken. There was water, but it was trickling water. There was no air conditioning," Scardino said. "There were a lot of empty popcorn bags in the house. There were a lot of broken egg shells in the house and a lot of empty tin cans where they were eating food out of a tin can which indicated to me there wasn’t any grocery shopping."
Scardino also said there was a Christmas tree found in the home with unopened presents underneath it. The twins said the family had planned a belated celebration with relatives in January.
The dining room table was still set the way their mother had left it.
"It was in a state that I’m not sure even the most warped director in Hollywood could have made up the scene in that house," Scardino said.
When reached for comment Tuesday, one of the twins' cousins, Elvin Berndt, said he was relieved that the pair would not go to trial for murder.
"What they did wasn't right," he said. "But they didn't know what they were doing."