COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Seven former workers at the Whetstone Garden and Care Center were in court Monday on charges ranging from forgery to gross patient neglect and involuntary manslaughter.
One by one, the seven nurses entered not guilty pleas and were allowed to remain free on a recognizance bond.
Sandra Blazer, Jessica Caldwell and Kimberly Potter are all charged with gross patient neglect and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of James Chandler.
Chandler died in March of 2017 from septic shock. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chandler’s family claims Chandler developed a massive bedsore as a result of patient neglect. The lawsuit alleges the result of the bedsore was sepsis and ultimately death.
Robert Cochran, Caldwell’s attorney said his client is innocent of the charges.
“I cannot begin to understand or explain the attorney generals decision to charge Jessica Caldwell with a crime,” Cochran said. “As a nurse, taking care of patients was Jessica’s highest priority. She did not neglect Mr. Chandler. She most certainly did not cause his death. She wasn’t even the unit manager or the floor nurse at the time of these charges.”
Four other nurses are charged with forgery in connection with the records of a second patient. Illumine Muhongere, Sheila Dains, Maegan Van Syckle and Akosua Ayarkwa all face multiple counts of forgery in connection with a patient identified in the criminal indictment only as RT.
In announcing the charges in February, Ohio Attorney General David Yost said it’s a case that goes to the heart of “protecting the unprotected.” “These victims were completely dependent on others for day-to-day care, which their families trusted Whetstone Gardens to provide,” Yost said. “Instead of providing that care, evidence shows these nurses forced the victims to endure awful mistreatment and then lied about it. This is gut-wrenching for anyone who has entrusted a care facility with the well-being and safety of a loved one.”
Five of the seven defendants have agreed to put their nursing license on inactive status. Potter and Muhongere have, so far, declined.
Anyone with evidence of additional neglect at the facility is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/ReportMedicaidFraud.