DENVER, CO — Five people were charged with homicide Friday in deaths of two Colorado residents in long-term care facilities. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducted investigations of the deaths of at-risk adults at Wheat Ridge Regional Center’s Seacrest House and at an Ashley Manor Assisted Living Facility.
In the first case, the AG’s office arrested Victoria Pletting, 60, and Joanita Serwadda, 52 and charged them with allegedly negligently allowing the death of Buddhi Rai, an at-risk adult with multiple diagnoses, including a seizure disorder. Rai drowned in a Seacrest House bathtub behind a closed door on Nov. 20, 2014, in spite of orders that he be under supervision at all times, and especially while bathing. Pletting and Serwadda were reportedly on duty at the time of Rai’s death, and though they did check on him ten minutes after he entered the bath, Rai died, and the coroner’s office listed the cause of death as drowning, which may have been precipitated by a seizure, the AG’s office said. Pletting and Serwadda were both charged with alleged criminally negligent homicide of an at-risk adult. Pletting was additionally charged with manslaughter.
The second case involved the heat death of a 94-year-old resident of an unspecified Ashley Manor Assisted Living Facility. Arrest warrants were issued for Deidre Lopez, 32, Roxanne Ousley, 36, and Jasmine Salgado, 22, the AG’s office said.
Staffers were to conduct headcounts of residents every 15 minutes, but this didn’t happen on June 15, 2016. Mary Gatewood, who had advanced dementia, fell outside the facility and lay unattended in a landscaping rock bed for almost an hour-and-a-half before being found by staff. The temperatures outside on that day were between 86-92 degrees Fahrenheit, the AG’s statement said. Gatewood died, and the autopsy findings cited "probable heat stress" as the primary cause of death. Video surveillance revealed that she had not been checked on by staff for at least three hours.
Lopez, Ousley and Salgado were the staff members responsible for headcounts while Gatewood was outside, the AG’s statement said. All three Ashley Manor staff members were charged with criminally negligent homicide of an at-risk adult. Ousley was additionally charged with tampering with evidence and Lopez was additionally charged with attempting to influence a public servant.
Lopez has been arrested, but Ousley and Salgado have not yet been located for arrest, the AG’s office said. Anyone with information about their locations can contact their local law enforcement agency.
"What happened to these two victims is heartbreaking and the tragedy of their loss is made worse by the fact that their deaths were preventable," said AG Coffman in a statement. "My office is dedicated to protecting Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens and I am thankful that we will now be able to pursue justice for Ms. Gatewood and Mr. Rai, and hopefully be able to provide some solace to their loved ones."
The Attorney General’s Office encourages anyone who may have information about fraud committed against the State by providers of Medicaid products and services, or the abuse and neglect of patients in federally-funded long-term care facilities to contact the office directly.
Reports can be filed online at https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/about-consumer-protection/complaint-forms/report-medicaid-fraud-or-abuse#overlay-context=about-consumer-protection/complaint-forms/report-medicaid-fraud-or-abuse.
Reports may also be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or made by phone by calling (720) 508-6696.
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