Body May Be Exhumed To Determine If Mouth Burns From Being Fed Scalding-Hot Cereal Caused Death

Authorities are investigating whether homicide charges are warranted in the death of an elderly man who died just two weeks after he was severely burned from being fed scalding hot cereal by an aide at a geriatric facility.

The county coroner's office Monday filed a petition in court to exhume the body of the 79-year-old man who died last Oct. 23.

The private physician of the man, who was non-communicative, bedridden and suffering from end-stage Alzheimer's dementia when he died at home under hospice care, certified that the man's death from malnutrition was the result of natural causes, specifically "Alzheimer's dementia."

As a result, the county coroner  states that the death was not reported to his office and there was no opportunity for an autopsy before burial.

However, the coroner said he was notified in January by the district attorney's office about its ongoing investigation of the abuse incident.

Based on information received from law enforcement authorities and his own review of the victim's medical records, the coroner issued a coroner's death certificate that lists a dual cause of death - complications following burns of oral mucosa, tongue and throat and Alzheimer's dementia.

He now wants to exhume the man's body to further document the nature and extent of the burn injuries.

"If the coroner determines (the victim's) death is a result of the October incident, then that is a homicide and we will pursue it," said the county Assistant District Attorney.

The now-former nurse's aide who fed the cereal to the resident was arrested last December on charges stemming from the Oct. 8 scalding incident.

The victim's family members, including his widow, have consented to the exhumation.

The aide, who was hired at the facility in March 2008 and reportedly received on-the-job training concerning the proper feeding of residents, did not report the incident or seek medical treatment for the man following the incident, the complaint said.

A facility supervisor, noticing later that morning what initially appeared to be a torn and infected upper lip on that patient, asked the aide if she knew how the man received the injury. She replied that she did not, according to the complaint.

By noon that same day, the man's lip was blistered and swollen and he was subsequently taken to the hospital where he was admitted for treatment.

Police were contacted the following day by the victim's daughter, who reported the burn injury. For more, read the story.


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. 

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