Kathy Pinkowski dedicated her life to caring for others.
Friends described her as a supportive wife, mother, daughter-in-law and social services worker, someone who spent decades looking after people both inside and outside her family. They also remain stunned and angry that the 71-year-old lived in filth just before she died. Her daughter Krystal Pinkowski came home on a March evening to discover Kathy Pinkowski covered in excrement and unresponsive, according to public records.
“The thing that makes all of us so sick is that Kathy worked for 30 something years busting her ass for that kid,” said Kim Lawkins, a former coworker with Kathleen Pinkowski at Schenectady County DSS in New York. “Everything was all about Krystal. And for her to go out like this. It's absolutely disgusting. To be basically tossed away like trash.”
Krystal Pinkowski is charged with one count of abuse or neglect with great bodily injury toward a vulnerable adult. She's also charged with three counts of unlawfully placing a child at risk of or cause harm or willfully abandoning a child and one count of ill treatment or torture of animals, according to Horry County court records. Police said the charges stemmed from Krystal Pinkowski's treatment of her mother and children.
Martin Spratlin, an attorney who represents Krystal Pinkowski, declined to comment on his client's case.
But public records, including audio of 911 calls, reveal what police found when they responded to the Pinkowski home on March 16.
“I came home and she had urinated and had diarrhea and stuff all over herself,” Krystal Pinkowski told a 911 dispatcher. “I tried to put her in the wheelchair to get her in the shower and she is just completely out of it… She’s like gasping for air.”
Soon after, Krystal Pinkowski told the 911 dispatcher that her mother was slouched over in a wheelchair and unable to breathe. The daughter was told by the 911 dispatcher to move her mother into a laid back, flat position and perform chest compressions to help her mother’s breathing.
Kathy Pinkowski was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the coroner's office.
Kathleen Jablonski Pinkowski was born on Oct. 9, 1951, and raised in Schenectady, New York, according to Christina Brady, a friend of Kathy's since grade school.
"She always took care of people," Brady said. "She was abandoned by her mother and raised by her maternal grandmother, whom she lived with until her death. And then her mother reappeared in the picture, and she took care of her mother until her death, regardless of the fact that her mother paid no attention to her until she was in medical need."
She went on to marry Lawrence "Larry" Pinkowski, with whom she raised one child, Krystal Pinkowski, Brady said. Because her husband was on disability and unable to work since the 1970s, Kathy Pinkowski was the sole breadwinner in the house with only a high school diploma. Her husband Larry died on Dec. 27 at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell, a nursing home in Valatie, New York.
For more than 40 years, Kathy Pinkowski worked at the Schenectady County Department of Social Services, said her former coworker Lawkins.
"She was a riot, she had a heart of gold,” Lawkins said. “She was one of these gruff rough people around the edges, you know, interviewing with clients and stuff, but then she’d give them the shirt off her back. She was just a big poser.”
Kathleen Pinkowski also took care of her husband's mother and grandmother, according to Brady.
"Hard work never bothered that woman," Brady said. "That was her whole life. Hard work. She'd help you out and expect nothing in return. And she brought in the bacon, so to speak."
When Kathleen was due to retire in the mid-2000s, Lawkins worked with the DSS director to throw a retirement party for their co-worker, filming a video sendoff for Kathleen asking random people from the community to wish her a happy retirement.
“We threw her a whole surprise retirement party and played the video”, Lawkins said. “It was just such a good memory in such a good time. You know, and that's all we're all thinking about now.”
“You said she was in a wheelchair,” the 911 dispatcher asked Krystal Pinkowski on March 16. “Is there any way that you can take her arms and pull her forward? Don’t worry about hurting her, we just need to get her flat on her back on the floor.”
Unable to find a pulse, Krystal Pinkowski responded: “I mean, I can put her, I mean … we’re on the cement front porch.” She said she had been attempting to take her mother to the hospital.
“I mean, if that’s what you need to do, that’s what you need to do, but you need to get her flat on her back, that way you can start compressions,” the dispatcher said.
After placing her mother on her back on the front porch, Krystal Pinkowski was instructed to perform chest compressions until EMS arrived a little over six minutes later and the call disconnected.
“One, two, three, four…” the 911 dispatcher repeated as Krystal Pinkowski did chest compressions on her mother. “You’re doing a great job. Just keep doing those compressions.”
First responders would later arrive at the scene in the 800 block of Highway 814. The mother was dead and nude on the front porch of the small community a few miles from Myrtle Beach and across the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge swamp from Bucksville.
The first police officers with Horry County Police Department arrived on scene at 9:06 p.m. March 16, about 26 minutes after EMS arrived on scene, according to the 911 call log.
The coroner’s office was notified about a minute after EMS arrived.
Responders described the home as being in desolate conditions, deprived of sanitation and filled with animal carcasses, bug infestations, garbage and feces. Three children were living there at the time.
Two weeks after her body was found, the beige, one-story stucco sided house with a window air conditioning unit on the far front window remains. The red metal roof slopes over a porch hemmed in with a few swamp palmettos fanning over the porch edge. A single black boot, a hot pink small bucket and uncapped bottles were left on the windowsill facing the porch. There was a washing machine on the edge of the front porch. There was an aluminum crutch, several empty white plastic bottles and a box for a 24-pack of canned Pepsi. A silver lamp off to the side of a tangle of red straps was seen on the porch.
On the storm door was a note marked March 21 at 10:03 a.m.
“We will be back in 24 hours to inspect home and call pest control…Prayer for all,” the handwritten note states.
Pinkowski's arrest warrants state the hallway to the children's room was littered with garbage and feces to the point that the floor underneath could not be seen, making the bathroom non-accessible due to the amount of garbage piled inside of it.
The kitchen was found to be infested with bugs, with the refrigerator blocked by garbage and animal cages.
There were 16 dead animals found inside the house as well as a cockroach infestation, according to Krystal Pinkowski’s arrest warrants.
During the course of the investigation, Horry County Police Department officers also found several different animals severely neglected.
One white rabbit, seven snakes and four pet bearded dragons were located in a state of decomposition from what appeared to be prolonged neglect, records state. Five cats and four dogs were found to be living in unsanitary conditions including large amounts of trash, urine, and feces, as well as infestations of insects.
Six snakes and one tarantula were found living in inhumane and unsanitary living conditions including large amounts of trash, urine, and feces, as well as an infestation of insects, records state. The reptiles were found to not have adequate living conditions for their species.
Around 1:26 a.m. on March 17 a brief police report states that EMS was requested to stand by while venomous snakes were removed from the property.
The 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office refused to release the dashcam footage from the night Krystal Pinkowski was arrested. Agency spokeswoman Tonya Root said releasing that footage could potentially prejudice a jury if Krystal Pinkowski’s case goes to trial.
Kathleen Pinkowski’s cause of death is still under investigation, according to the Horry County Coroner’s Office.
Krystal Pinkowski was booked at J. Reuben Long Detention Center on March 17. She remains in jail with a $28,000 bond for her pending charges.
Krystal Pinkowski’s three children have been taken into the custody of the Department of Social Services, according to Mikayla Moskov, director of public information for Horry County Government. The children are now living with their birth father in South Carolina’s upstate.
“It’s my understanding the live animals were evaluated by our veterinary team, and their needs and containment requirements were determined,” Moskov said of the surviving animals from the Highway 814 home. “Following that, the animals were transferred to a qualified individual who could guarantee the animals get a good life and the community is safe from them.”
Brady said the last time she saw her childhood friend was in August 2021. She wanted to take Kathy out for a day at the beach. She said Krystal and the children wouldn't let her into the house when she arrived to get her friend.
"They said one dog had a puppy and so I couldn't go in the house," Brady said. "But having known that family for years, they always lived in disarray. I wouldn't say filth, but disarray. Her health was failing because she had a stroke, but it was a good vacation. They looked like a nice family."
After the trip, Brady said they only had contact through the phone.
But she and others read the news report online about a deceased grandmother found on a porch, covered in a feces covered blanket.
"I was just, just mortified," she said, "because it was such a disrespectful way to have her end her life when she did so much."
“A lot of us are still here in this area," she said. "And also, a lot of us are retired or in Florida and here and there. And, you know, we've all been communicating and are just blown away. And just hoping to God that she died quickly and that she wasn't abused to death. Jesus, I can't even imagine.”
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