ROANOKE, Va. – After months of investigating allegations of possible neglect, no charges will be filed against the Raleigh Court Health and Rehab Center in Roanoke.
The Roanoke City Commonwealth’s Attorney and Roanoke City Police were investigating three cases of possible neglect at the facility after families were unable to see loved ones in person for months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell said there’s not enough evidence to charge anyone in the cases brought to his office involving Raleigh Court Health and Rehab, including allegations of neglect involving 96-year-old Helen Norfleet.
“I feel devastated. I just have been so heartbroken not to have my Nannie. I do feel that my Nannie was 100% a victim of abuse and neglect,” said Julie Parsons, Helen Norfleet’s granddaughter.
“This is not a situation where we’re dealing with bedsores. We’re dealing with malnutrition, broken bones or fractures, things that would indicate physical abuse. This is a death that resulted as a result of an injury that appears to be vascular in nature and the complications that arose from that in conjunction with the pre-existing medical conditions. It’s going to be hard to hold any one person responsible for that,” Caldwell explained to 10 News.
As we’ve reported, Norfleet had two toes amputated late last year and later died. Caldwell met with Parsons to talk about the investigation Wednesday morning.
Caldwell told 10 News his office talked with several investigators and experts outside of Roanoke because there are no investigators within the Commonwealth Attorney’s office and there are no medical people with Roanoke police.
“We have to outside about a complaint like this,” said Caldwell, who added they have to rely on police, sheriff’s offices, and state police before they assess information to support possibly criminal charges.
Caldwell said when someone is taken care of in a home setting, it’s relatively easy to prove and handle criminal charges. He said elder abuses cases over the years have been more obvious from those settings because you see more immediate signs of neglect like bedsores that go to the bone, malnutrition, lack of medication given, or physical abuse.
He said that part of the Raleigh Court investigation included talking with:
- The emergency room doctor when Norfleet was brought in to LewisGale for treatment
- Medicaid fraud unit
- Virginia Attorney General’s Office
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Billingsley also talked to a nurse investigator who works for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office who said Norfleet’s toes were cleaned, dressed and she got her medication. Given her age and health, it’s difficult for a body to heal from an injury to the extremity and the nurse didn’t see criminal liability because the foot wound was not a pressure ulcer.
Caldwell said the investigator went on to say the bruising on her body was not significant, was consistent with a fall from the bed, and at her age, it’s not uncommon to find bruising in the locations that were documented.
According to Caldwell, the question comes down to whether or not there was an alleged failure to provide medical attention to prevent this from happening and if there was a criminal violation of standards of care.
“There are a lot of factors coming together toward the end of a person’s life. Ms. Norfleet may have had many years of health ahead of her had she survived this but I don’t believe this was an intentional act, I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that and it’s simply maybe a case where because of all the things that went on during the pandemic that you just had a bad result for a lot of different reasons. We can’t find or been able to surface anything that would suggest that these were intentional, neglectful acts,” said Caldwell.
There’s no statute of limitations, so if someone with new information comes forward Caldwell says they’ll investigate further.
“I’m just asking and pleading with anyone who at that facility who has seen anything or heard anything, whether it be in regards to my nanny or the other open investigations to just please come forward. Anything is better than nothing. You may think it’s small, it’s really not. Anything that you have that could help these incidents from happening in the future would be so appreciated,” said Parsons. “I have faith in our justice system, that justice will be served but I’m just still so heartbroken to not have her.”
Caldwell said the regulations around nursing homes are so loose and that Virginia needs better laws and definitive standards to work with.
If you have concerns about a loved one’s care, there are several steps you can take. You can find that information here.
If you want to take a look at reports concerning this facility or any other you can look up reports on the VDH website here.
This is part of an in-depth 10 News investigation. Jenna Zibton is working for you, investigating different angles of what COVID-19 means for families with loved ones in nursing homes. Contact Jenna if you have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.