Nursing Home Aide Arrested, Charged with Homicide After Resident Dies of Blunt Force Trauma to Head

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 state.

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 skull.

“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.

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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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