Virginia Rarely Prosecutes Cases of Neglect, Abuse
The medical examiner said the cause of the hematoma was "undetermined."
"The injury that was rough handling, that was described in the evening, did not involve her head," said Marcella F. Fierro, Virginia's chief medical examiner. Fierro noted that Jonas had Alzheimer's disease, which made her brain more susceptible to injury. Jonas could have fallen and "could have severely banged her head on something with no fault to anyone," Fierro said.
The caretaker was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and given a suspended sentence. Inspectors fined Brighton Gardens $500 but drew no connection between that and the death. The executive director of the facility said the employee was fired.
"Personally, I feel like that [caretaker] is responsible," said Dick Cecil, Jonas's grandson. "She was fine before. She lost all of her dignity."
Jane Trotta, 61, a resident of Cary Avenue Adult Home in Gloucester, was sent to the hospital in 2001 with multiple bed sores, one so deep that the infection reached the bone, prosecutors said. Licensing inspectors found that the home violated regulations in her care.
Prosecutors said they wanted to avoid debate about who should be held accountable, so they charged the corporation that ran the facility.
"Rather than pin a conviction on some poor nurse's aide who is making little more than minimum wage, find the corporation responsible," said Gloucester County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert D. Hicks.
One of Trotta's sores was "extremely bad" when she was sent to the emergency room, owner Benny Stokes said. But Stokes contended that the injuries were self-inflicted with a heating pad. "She didn't want to be helped, basically," Stokes said.
The trial lasted one day. The judge noted that nobody could say for certain how long it took for the injuries to develop and how long they had gone undetected. He dismissed the case.
"It's a criminal case . . . and I have a reasonable doubt," Judge William H. Shaw III said in court.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt and database editor Dan Keating contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company