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N4T Investigators: Nursing Home Nightmare?

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The Pima County Sheriff's Department has launched an investigation into an employee at a senior care home in Green Valley.

Sheriff's reports showed deputies responded to Silver Springs Senior Living after a caregiver reported an employee suspected of what was described as the raping of a resident with dementia. However, the suspect has not been charged and to date, no arrests have been made.

Reports from May 23, 2020 said employees went into the resident's room to bust the suspect. According to reports, employees said that's when the suspect ran into the closet wearing only a shirt and refused to come out until he ran into the bathroom.

In the reports, deputies said the caretaker took a photo that showed the suspect's pants and a darker gray clothing item which looked similar to underwear on the resident's floor next to her bed.

According to reports, a deputy said the suspect was only wearing a shirt and underwear when he opened the door.

In a statement to the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the suspect's attorney said: "(My client) was in a resident’s room on May 23, to help her with a specific request to locate an item which had fallen behind her dresser.  Earlier in the day, (my client) had been doing yard work. A thorn was poking into his thigh causing him pain. (My client) asked the resident if he could go into her bedroom to tend to the thorn.  The resident was in her living room.  While in the process of tending to the thorn, a caregiver burst through the door to find (my client) with his pants off.  At no time was (my client's) underwear off. On June 30, 2020, (my client) submitted to a polygraph examination with the (business) in Tucson.  The polygraph questions focused on whether (my client) ever exposed himself to the resident, or touched the resident in a sexual manner.  (My client) passed the polygraph with a score of 99.1 percent that he truthfully answered the questions that nothing of a sexual nature occurred. (My client and I) believe there has been a rush to judgment and assumptions made in this case.  We are confident and hopeful that (my client) will be cleared of any/all allegations." 

Reports said the resident told a deputy she did not remember the suspect being in her room.

Reports said the resident's sister and Power of Attorney told deputies a rape kit was not needed.

Reports said the company has suspended the suspect.

In a statement to the News 4 Tucson Investigators Amy McGuire, Director of Marketing and Communications at Silver Springs Senior Living said: "From Silver Springs: Our top priority at Silver Springs is the health and well-being of our residents and staff.  We have been working with law enforcement authorities as they investigated the circumstances surrounding an incident at our community and a former employee. We are grateful for the work of Pima County Sherriff’s Department and for our team members’ quick actions, following the appropriate protocols in this situation. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and offer support to those who were involved."

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in 10 Americans 60-years-old and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Red flags of abuse include bruises, trouble sitting or walking and being over or under medicated.

Rae Vermeal has no involvement or relation to the Silver Springs incident. She works for the Pima Council on Aging and said in general elder abuse cases have increased nationwide.

"My program alone just with speaking with people who have concerns about loved ones or people they know in the community we've seen a 185% uptick in reports in the spring of 2016," Vermeal said.

If you have noticed signs of abuse in your loved one, you can file a report online with Arizona Adult Protective Services right away.

 "There are caring people in this field and this system everywhere who are doing their best to protect vulnerable adults. What I feel national is that there needs to be more funding for adult abuse and exploitation across the board."  

In 2019 and 2020 Adult Protective Services received $12 million dollars in federal funding. The Trump administration has requested an additional $2 million for the FY 2020 budget.

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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