District Attorney

Dave Stevenson

(530) 303-2411


District Attorney Vern Pierson announces the felony conviction of Douglas Carter Ernst for Elder Abuse with great bodily injury. 

In March of 2015, Ernst was living with his mother, 88 year old Louise Ernst, at Louise’s home in El Dorado Hills.  Ernst, who was his mother’s caregiver, called 911 on March 15, 2015, requesting help because he could not move her.  When paramedics arrived at the home, they discovered an emaciated Louise Ernst unclothed in her bed, which was wet and soiled.  The house itself was in a dirty and disheveled condition.  Paramedics had to climb over a number of obstacles to access Ms. Ernst as she lay in her bed.

Ms. Ernst had numerous wounds throughout her body including a serious pressure ulcer on her sacrum.  Observers in the courtroom noted that the graphic photos of Ms. Ernst’s wounds were difficult to look at.

Louise Ernst was taken to Mercy Hospital in Folsom, where doctors determined her condition to be life threatening.    Ms. Ernst was malnourished and dehydrated.  She had suffered kidney and heart damage as a result of the dehydration and elevated potassium levels. Ms. Ernst had a significant rash due to exposure to urine and feces. One wound care nurse who testified at trial noted that Ms. Ernst’s wounds would have caused tremendous pain.


Although initially doctors did not think Ms. Ernst would survive, they were able to stabilize her and improve her condition.  After a two week hospital stay, Ms. Ernst was transferred to hospice care.  Remarkably, Louise Ernst is still alive and will celebrate her 90th birthday next month.  With the exception of the sacral pressure ulcer, which is much improved, her wounds have now healed.  She remains in hospice care.


The jury heard testimony and evaluated evidence over 5 days and deliberated for approximately 4 hours until they rendered the guilty verdict on all counts.  The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Trish Kelliher, who has been a prosecutor for 30 years and joined the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office in 1997.


Douglas Ernst now faces up to 11 years in state prison.  He will be sentenced on June 13, 2016, by Judge Kenneth Melikian.


Deputy District Attorney Trish Kelliher stated, “Elder Abuse is a significant and pervasive problem in this country.   Because much of the abuse happens behind closed doors and/or is perpetrated by family members, as in the Ernst case, it is often difficult to detect.”  The National Center for Elder Abuse reports that “we simply do not know for certain how many people are suffering from elder abuse and neglect.”


It is critical that community members be alert to signs of Elder Abuse or signs that a person might be at risk due to extreme vulnerability.  Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors.  Warning signs of Elder Abuse include:


  • Physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
  • Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult
  • Financial abuse: Sudden changes in financial situations
  • Neglect: Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
  • Verbal or emotional abuse: Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals  

District Attorney Vern Pierson stated, “We in the El Dorado County Law Enforcement Community are committed to insuring the safety of our seniors and to holding all perpetrators of Elder Abuse accountable.”  Anyone who suspects that a senior adult is being mistreated should contact El Dorado County Adult Protective Services Hotline at (530) 642-4800.  This is a 24 hour hotline.


In the words of the National Center on Elder Abuse, WE STAND FOR DIGNITY.  WE WILL NOT STAND FOR ELDER ABUSE.