Sunday, September 27, 2009

60 murders and rapes committed in nursing homes

Perfect Cause has documented at least 60 murders, rapes and serious assaults nationwide in nursing homes by residents who are sex offenders, including a rape of a mentally retarded woman in Cincinnati who was in the facility because of her condition.

More than 100 registered sex offenders live in Ohio nursing homes -- their convictions for rape, gross sexual imposition and sexual battery generally kept secret from other residents and their families.

A gap in state law requiring notification of anybody who lives within 1,000 feet of a sex offender does not require nursing-home owners to inform residents, family members or guardians when an offender moves into the facility.
A Dispatch computer analysis comparing state records of long-term-care facilities with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification list shows that 110 nursing-home residents and six employees are registered sexual offenders. Fifty-one are concentrated at four nursing homes. The other 65 are scattered at 53 homes across the state.

Ohio's total has nearly tripled since 2004, said Wes Bledsoe, head of the Perfect Cause, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit group that has been tracking sex offenders in nursing homes for five years.

About two-thirds of the current offenders in nursing homes are from Tier 3, the most serious category, which includes those who have committed crimes such as rape, sexual battery, kidnapping a minor and gross sexual imposition on a child younger than 12. Not all are elderly; in fact, about two dozen are 50 or younger, in nursing homes because of their physical or mental condition.

"What we're seeing is a truly disturbing and horrifying trend," Bledsoe said. "We're seeing a system that's getting worse instead of better. We're seeing more assaults in facilities. Many times the assailants are never charged."
Perfect Cause has documented at least 60 murders, rapes and serious assaults nationwide in nursing homes by residents who are sex offenders, including a rape of a mentally retarded woman in Cincinnati who was in the facility because of her condition.

The legal loophole touches a nerve with that woman's father, Ray McDaniel of Fairfield, Ohio. Ashley K. McDaniel, 18, was raped early the morning of Aug. 21, 2005, by Rickey Smith, a registered sex offender living in the facility.

McDaniel said the nursing home didn't alert him, call the police or seek medical treatment until he and his wife visited nearly 48 hours after the attack.

Smith was convicted of the crime, served about two years in prison, and is now living in a Cincinnati group home.

"I think he should have been chemically castrated," said McDaniel, who has become an advocate for stronger notification proposals both at the Statehouse and in Washington.

Despite the growing number of registered sex offenders in Ohio nursing homes, advocates for seniors and other long-term-care residents say most are unaware of the potential risk. With no legal requirement that facilities pass along the information, most don't.

"In a long-term-care facility, the offender could be a roommate, yet there is no clear guidance for providers on notification or assessment of risk," said Beverley L. Laubert, Ohio's long-term-care ombudsman.
In her annual report released last week, Laubert urged state lawmakers to approve legislation requiring that residents of long-term-care facilities be informed when a registered sex offender is living there.

"Nursing-home residents have the right to be notified just like anyone else," she said.
Some argue that notification is unfair and would create unnecessary fear.

"We don't notify, nor do we segregate. All these people have paid their debt to society," said Paul Andrews, administrator for Carlton Manor in Washington Court House, where a convicted murderer and seven convicted rapists are among the 26 offenders living there.
That's by far the biggest concentration at any Ohio nursing home, and accounts for nearly half the registered offenders in Fayette County.

In Columbus, Bryden Place, at 1169 Bryden Rd., has the largest concentration in central Ohio, with seven offenders, including four convicted of rape and two of sexual battery.

Andrews said his institution is different than the usual nursing home, mixing elements of a correctional facility and a nursing home. He said it has safeguards to protect the residents, including security restrictions, and employs full-time psychologists, social workers and a behavioral-care nurse.

"We are taking care of the fringe members of society who have paid their debt and have nowhere to go," Andrews said.
He opposes notification because it "might upset some residents" suffering from anxiety or other maladies.
Andrews said many nursing homes take sex offenders and other more high-risk patients to fill beds.

Pete VanRunkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, representing long-term-care facilities in the state, said he shares the concern about notification. "I'd feel that way if it was my mother."

But he said requiring facilities to notify residents and family members would put nursing homes in a difficult position.

"There's no provision in the law that says you can kick a person out for being a sex offender. There's no provision that would allow them to not accept them."

State law requires sheriff's offices to notify only the nursing-home operator, but "prudence would say you should go ahead and notify either the residents or the family, too," said Robert Cornwell, director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association.

He said the organization supports changing the law to require operators to notify residents, and, at least in cases when health problems such as Alzheimer's disease are involved, their family.

Cornwell acknowledged that he hasn't heard any "horror stories" involving sex offenders in nursing homes, but he said lawmakers shouldn't wait for an ugly incident before acting.

Fayette County Deputy Sheriff Bob Russell, who coordinates the county's sex offender registry, said having so many offenders in Carlton Manor is helpful -- even if it is a nursing home.

"It's working for us. At least I know where those 26 people are," he said.

State lawmakers are expected to examine the issue this fall. Bills already have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Last year, the House unanimously approved notification legislation by Rep. Courtney Combs, a Cincinnati-area Republican. But the bill never had a hearing in the Senate and died when the session ended Dec. 31.

"If grandma lives in a neighborhood, she gets notified. In a nursing home, there could be a sexual offender in the next bed and she doesn't get notified. How do you justify that? You can't," said Combs. He recently re-introduced the proposal.

Sen. Capri Cafaro has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

"We have to make sure everybody is protected, especially our most vulnerable citizens," the Youngstown-area Democrat said.

Attorney General Richard Cordray supports the change.

"We think residents should know. That's the purpose behind the law," he said. "Usually you're notifying someone about somebody down the street. If there is somebody down the hall, it's all the more important that they know."
But Sen. Tim Grendell says additional notification requirements are unnecessary.

"I certainly have no sympathy for sex offenders, but where do you draw the line?" said the Chesterland Republican, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.

The state already requires sex offenders to register with local law-enforcement authorities and for the information to be available to the public online. Mandating that nursing homes also notify their residents could create unnecessary "panic or fear," he said.

"Nursing-home residents and their family members can check for themselves," Grendell said.

"I certainly would want to know if I was putting my mother in a home where a sex offender resided."

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"
.........Sarah Tofte

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