HOUSTON Twin brothers accused of leaving their 89-year-old mother to die on the floor and then living with her corpse for three months appeared in court for a probable cause hearing Wednesday morning.
Edwin and Edward Berndt, 48, are charged with murder in the death of Sybile Berndt.
Police said the mother died in their Houston home after a fall. Investigators said the men left her there on the floor for three days without seeking medical attention or giving her food or water.
She died on January 13.
A judge set bond at $500,000 each, saying that because the men have access to their mother s money, they could be a flight risk. She reportedly had $700,000 in a checking account.
Defense attorney Robert Scardino said he plans to have that bond reduced.
We want to get them out of jail, have a reasonable bond set so they can be evaluated, he said.
Scardino said his clients demeanors have been flat.
Their responses are in monosyllables. I think they re scared clearly. But how much they appreciate their circumstance, I m not a professional in that arena, he said.
Police discovered the gruesome scene after neighbors called, saying they hadn t seen the woman in some time.
Officers went to the home Monday evening and were shocked to find the men living with the decomposing body.
When they continued to knock they observed large amounts of flies inside the house, on the inside of the curtains. Officers immediately knew that there was something wrong inside that house, prosecutor Samantha Knecht said.
According to police, the brothers admitted that their mother had fallen on January 10, while they were watching the BCS National Championship game. But instead of helping her, the men said they opted to leave her because they couldn t afford any medical treatment.
After she died, police said the men chose to leave here on the floor because they couldn t afford to bury her.
But Scardino said he s not sure that s exactly how it happened.
First of all, you have to believe what the police are saying, that that s what they told the police. And I m not going to take that at its word, he said. I think it s way early to start making those decisions, because nobody knows the answer to that, including the District Attorney s Office. So, to charge these fellas with murder without that information, I think is acting a little quick.
Those who knew the family said they d been concerned about them in the past few months.
The outreach ministry at Sybile Berndt s church said they d stopped by the home to check on her, but no one answered. Parishioners said they thought the family had gone to their ranch in the country.
Neighbors told KHOU 11 News the men, who d lived with their mother for most of their adult lives, were mentally disabled.
Mary Veasley, who works as a greeter at a nearby Walmart, said she and other employees remembered seeing them in the store.
She said the men stood out, because it s unusual to see adult twins together.
You can tell they re kind of childish and stuff. Sometimes they wave, Veasley said. They always have one basket never apart from each other.
Veasley said they would come to the Walmart to buy groceries one ever week or so.
Prosecutors said they will want the men to undergo some kind of mental evaluation something Scardino agreed was necessary.
The facts that we know now would tell us [the brothers mental state] is certainly an issue in this case. A lot of evaluation needs to be done in that regard, Scardino said.
Scardino said they were not employed at the time of their mother s death, but they d both had jobs in the past.
One of the brothers reportedly worked as a busboy, and the other had worked in some capacity for Sysco.