Family suing nursing home after alleged sexual assault - KCTV5 News

Family suing nursing home after alleged sexual assault

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LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -

An alleged crime and cover-up is rocking a Lawrence retirement home because of what a family says happened to their loved one.

Officials at a Lawrence retirement center say there is no merit to the lawsuit, but the allegations in a 32-page court document are disturbing to say the least.  The suit was filed by the family of Jean Allen. 

At the age of 87, Allen was living at Brandon Woods at Alvamar in hospice care with dementia and almost entirely immobile.

Bill Skepnek who is representing the family of Allen thinks it is outrageous what happened to her.  "What really happened here was a cover up," said Skepnek.

The report of a possible sexual assault on the former art instructor by a nursing aide, Skepnek says, was upsetting, but his outrage stems from how he says the facility tasked with Allen's care handled that report.

The lawsuit against the owners and staff says the daughter of Allen's roommate called the head of nursing on Oct. 21, 2010.

"The telephone message starts out, 'Something awful may have happened,'" said Skepnek.

Skepnek says the head of nursing, Sharon Mulqueen, did not contact Allen's family, did not suspend the nursing aide, did not call police and did not send Allen to the hospital.

The next day, he says, Mulqueen suspended the aide and sent Allen to Lawrence Memorial Hospital - not for a sexual assault exam, but for a routine Medicare exam.

Only after the hospital staff insisted Allen was not due for the intended exam did the Brandon Woods staff disclose the assault concern, he claims, and even then, the nursing home staff refused to file a police report until hospital staff threatened to do so themselves.

"They were worried about their revenues. They were worried about their reputation," said Skepnek.

In the interim, he says, the nursing home staff had bathed Allen and washed her clothes, destroying whatever DNA evidence might have been available.

As for Allen's exam, the suit says a specialized sexual assault nurse reported cuts and scrapes that left her with "no doubt" that Allen had been sexually abused.

The nursing home's executive director Jeffrey Merritt responded by saying, "We are confident that the judicial process will show that all of our residents, including the resident mentioned in the lawsuit, were at all times given state-of-the-art care that protected their health and safety."

More than a year after all of this began, no one has been charged and the criminal end of the investigation is no longer active.

Jean Allen died in November 2010.  Her husband and four sons are the plaintiffs in the suit.

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