Retired Sudbury United Church minister Nico Vanderstoel has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death.

The 75-year-old will face three years in jail in connection with his wife’s death in 2011.

Vanderstoel was originally charged with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessities of life.

li-st-stephens-sudbury-620

St. Stephen's on the Hill United Church in Sudbury, Ont. The church's former minister, Nico VanderStoel, has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. The 75-year-old will face three years in jail in connection with his wife’s death in 2011. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Those charges were withdrawn and he pleaded guilty to criminal negligence.

During a sentencing hearing, court heard that Vanderstoel's wife Heather was found at home with bed sores covering much of her body.

The agreed statement of fact says that, as of January 2011, Heather Vanderstoel was confined to her bedroom at their Whittaker Street home, due to her Multiple Sclerosis.

The Vanderstoel home was not set up for any type of homecare.

Horrendous skin ulcers

On March 16, a local homecare agency came to care for Heather Vanderstoel at Nico Vanderstoel’s request. The moment the employees lifted the sheets, they said she required immediate hospitalization and an ambulance was called.

The ambulance attendants found Heather Vanderstoel laying in six inches of urine, blood and fecal matter that was pooled on top of a completely saturated mattress. The statement said the skin ulcers were so horrendous that a paramedic threw up while attending to her. Another health care worker couldn't return to work after witnessing her condition.

The ambulance that transported Vanderstoel had to be decommissioned because of the residual filth and smell from her rotting flesh.

Death was preventable

Heather Vanderstoel was immediately taken to hospital for emergency surgery.

Through all of this, Vanderstoel was alert and coherent and she was adamant that she wanted the doctors to make her better. She told the investigating police officer that the pain she was in was so awful that she could not believe it.

Heather Vanderstoel’s health deteriorated and she died April 6, 2011.

The autopsy on her body revealed that she died as a result of complications of severe decubitus ulcerations (commonly referred to as bedsores) in a woman with advanced multiple sclerosis.

A medical expert testified the pressure sores were preventable — and that her situation and death was unnecessary.

Dozens of letters of support for the minister — most of which came from parishioners of St. Stephen’s on the Hill — paint a picture of Vanderstoel as a caring, compassionate husband who was always in touch with his wife.