Two brothers are facing murder and abuse charges in Michigan where authorities allege they willfully neglected their ailing mother, letting her waste away from malnutrition until her death last October, PEOPLE confirms.
Court records obtained by PEOPLE confirm that Gabriel Balogh, 31, and Grant Balogh, 33, were arrested last Thursday for failing to care for their bedridden mother, 57-year-old Vickie Balogh.
The brothers, who lived with their mother in Trenton, Michigan, have pleaded not guilty to murder, involuntary manslaughter, and abuse of a vulnerable adult, according to court records.
They are free after posting $200,000 cash bonds, and Kevin Simowski, the lawyer representing one of them tells PEOPLE “the charges are wrong.”
Vickie, a former Michigan Bell employee, died on October 23 from malnutrition caused by cachexia, which is more commonly known as wasting disease. PEOPLE was unable to determine what delayed the filing of criminal charges by Trenton detectives.
The mother also suffered from ataxia, a debilitating disorder that affects the nervous system, hindering a person’s ability to move.
Investigators allege in court documents that the incapacitated woman died because her sons failed to seek medical care for her. But Kevin Simowski, Grant’s defense attorney, tells PEOPLE this is false.
“These brothers are not criminals,” Simowski says. “They took care of their mother the best that they could. They did not cause her death — the disease caused her death.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Court records indicate that one of the brothers drove Vickie’s body to the hospital and told doctors that she just stopped breathing. Officials believe she had been dead for at least seven hours.
Doctors told police Vickie’s skin bore lesions and sores. Portions of her bones were visible through her skin, according to the allegations.
“This case is really about freedom — the freedom to live the way you want to,” Simowski tells PEOPLE. “The mother in this case had a terrible, hereditary disease. She knew she had this disease and she did not want to be institutionalized.”
Simowski says Vickie wanted to spend the rest of her life at home, and her sons honored her wishes. “This case really bothers me because it smacks of ‘big brotherism,’ ” the lawyer tells PEOPLE. “‘We know better what’s good for your mom than you do or she did.’ But if you have a terminal disease, you should have the freedom to decide how you die.”
Williams Winters, who represents Gabriel, tells PEOPLE his client “maintains his innocence and we look forward to vigorously defending these charges.”
Winters notes his client has no criminal record, and anticipates “a whole lot of issues” will be coming up as the case plays out.