Police have arrested a former health care worker in
connection with the 2007 homicide of a cerebral palsy patient, a case
that almost ended with no investigation into the victim’s unexpected
death and his burial just days later in a pauper’s grave.
A timeline of the case reveals it was the resident's family members who
initially questioned the circumstances of his death, which took place
while he was living at the nursing home. The arrested man worked in the center as a certified nursing assistant.
Authorities eventually exhumed the resident's body last summer, and the
autopsy performed one year after his death indicated Mr. Young died of
blunt force trauma to the head.
The county medical examiner said he did not initially perform
an autopsy because of representations made to him that the victim had
fallen and fractured his skull as the result of a seizure.
But medical records didn’t support that theory, and the victim's sister ended up suing the nursing home as well as the state Department of Human Services in November 2008,
alleging that both were in “collusion” to “hide the death and burial”
of her brother.
According to the lawsuit, not only did a nursing home employee kill the victim, but when
family members called to check up on him, employees didn’t even tell
the family he was dead for more than a month.
After his death, “[the nursing home] told each person, on each
call, that (he) was OK, and to come see him,” court documents
Adult Protective Services, the Department of Human Services agency
that had legal guardianship of the victim, also did not respond to
the hospital’s repeated attempts to find his family, said
the attorney representing the family.
Instead, the agency simply made arrangements for hime to be
buried in a pauper's grave after he died at the hospital about
a week after being sent there from the nursing home with a fractured
“It was like, ‘Just bury the guy. He’s a ward of the state, so who
cares?’” the attorney said at the time he filed the wrongful
death suit against the nursing home. For more about this, read the story.
This case illustrates the importance of questioning a sudden or suspicious death of a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility. It is disturbing to read stories like this one where the nursing home is alleged to cover up the improper death of its resident.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is
dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing
home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke,
Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Sat, March 14, 2009
by Robert Carter