On Dec. 5, 2018, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about an unresponsive woman at 20 Rocket Lane in Palm Coast. When they got there, Frances Hildegard King, 86, had been dead a while. She was also “very malnourished and very thin like she had not been eating,” a sheriff’s report noted. Her living conditions were “extremely bad,” the odor in the house “unbearable.” She had not been cared for, bathed or groomed even after soiling herself. Someone had fitted her with a black trash bag in place of a diaper. There were rat droppings under her bed.
A body removal employee who worked with the Volusia County Crematory would later tell an investigator that she’d “never observed someone in the same or similar condition” as King’s, comparing her condition to that of “a prisoner in a concentration camp.”
The medical examine removed the body and completed a devastating report: King had suffered from “elder abuse, neglect and starvation.” She was severely emaciated. She had suffered, untreated, from a an infection of the bladder. She had last been taken to a physician 13 months earlier. She had lost 54 pounds, more than half her body weight, in four years. Her muscles had atrophied. Her bone marrow showed evidence of “chronic long term starvation.” She also had dementia and rheumatoid arthritis. The medical examiner concluded that she “was intentionally neglected, abused and starved by another person(s),” and ruled her death a homicide, a determination the sheriff’s office did not disclose until Friday.
King was in the care of her daughter, Kim King Zaheer, 64.
On Friday, Zaheer was booked at the Flagler County jail on a first-degree felony manslaughter charge, the culmination of an investigation that had begun at the time of King’s death, gone cold for lack of key documentation about Zaheer, and was rekindled last year as part of the sheriff’s office’s focus on cold cases through a newly created unit.
Zaheer, according to her arrest report, had moved to Florida to care for her mother in 2011, opting to care for her at home rather than send her to a nursing home. She was her mother’s designated healthcare proxy, which means she had a power of attorney for all medical decisions. She claimed she stopped taking her to the doctor in 2017 because she was looking for a new physician, but couldn’t get an appointment. Authorities had noted that there hadn’t been a single prescription or other forms of medicine in King’s home. Zaheer told authorities she took care of her with “home remedies,” even though her mother was a diabetic.
In August 2019, detectives met with Yolanda Wertz, another daughter of King’s, in Georgia, where she provided them with a legal document titled “Designation of Health Care Surrogate,” signed by King and witnessed in part by an attorney, and authorizing Zaheer, who went by the name “Kim L. King” at the time, to make health care decisions on her mother’s behalf. Brent King, another family member–his signature appears as one of the witnesses on the 2008 deed when his parents bought the house in Palm Coast; Zaheer’s does not–had been responsible for paying the bills, though he told a detective she kept him and other siblings from seeing their mother and in 2015 “kicked him out of the home,” according to her arrest report–an incident documented by the sheriff’s office that June. Wertz reported a similar experience: rather than let Wertz into the house, Zaheer placed her mother in a wheelchair, wheeled her out, and allowed Wirtz to see her briefly under those conditions.
The filing of the charge was delayed this long because it was not until Feb. 1 that detective Andrew Cangialosi, who’d been assigned the case last summer after the cold-case unit was formed, located the attorney who’d signed the health proxy, thus authenticating the document. In March the detective secured King’s medical records from her last known physician, which also showed her diagnosis for dementia. The last step was toi charge and arrest Zaheer, which was done Friday after detectives obtained a search warrant for the same address where King had died, on Rocket Lane, where King had lived since 2008.
That house had been homesteaded until the end of 2018. It lost its homestead exemption in 2019, with property taxes there more than doubling, to $3,370, a bill that was not paid until last February., The 2020 taxes have not been paid, though they won;t be overdue until May 1.
“Cases like these and the small list of other unsolved cases of homicides, missing persons, and sex crimes are what led to the creation of the Cold Case Unit,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “I am grateful that we were able to arrest the suspect in this case and hopefully this can offer some closure to family and friends of the victim. If you are responsible for a human being’s care you must take care of them. No matter how long it takes we will continue these investigations to hold people accountable for their crimes.”
Zaheer is being held at the county jail on $500,000 bond.