- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A rural North Dakota man whose brother was found dead inside a house that had no heat and was full of garbage and mice pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Ronald Simmons, 62, was charged in East Central District Court with endangering a vulnerable adult. Authorities say his 58-year-old brother, Bruce Simmons, died of hypothermia in January 2014 at the house near Kindred, about 20 miles from Fargo.

“It’s a very sad story. It was tragic. It was preventable,” Cass County prosecutor Tracy Peters told KFGO radio.

Peters said Bruce Simmons was a hoarder and hadn’t left the house for years. The two brothers once shared the house, but Ronald moved to a shop building on the farmstead because the house became so cluttered. Ronald told police he had been taking care of his brother since 2009 and brought him one meal a day and a bottle of water.

Peters said the two sides “came to a reasonable resolution” on Ronald’s conviction.

“When their father died a few years back, Ronald was the one who assumed the care for his brother,” Peters said. “When you do that, you are required to maintain that care.”

Deputies who responded to a call to check on Bruce said the smell in the house was so bad it made them sick, according to court documents said. A hazmat team provided authorities with protective suits and facemasks.

Ronald told police his brother suffered from mental illness and declined offers for help.

“Even though there were family members that were trying to get him to leave the house, get to a doctor or get some medical care, he was just completely unwilling to leave the house,” Peters said.

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