Sunday, February 06, 2011

Brownfield nursing home under investigation following death

Authorities said 71-year-old Willie Joe Byers, who reportedly suffered from dementia, wandered outside the doors of Tumbleweed Care Center around 4:15 a.m. Thursday unsupervised. He was found unresponsive by a nursing home worker four hours later.

Brownfield police said they are conducting a criminal investigation in conjunction with Attorney General Mark White.
"We're talking to employees, checking out stories and making sure everything lines up,” Sgt. Darrel Williams said. “We are looking at possible criminal charges."
Although Brownfield police said this investigation is ongoing, this is not the first incident at the facility.
According to police documents requested by Fox 34, Byers was the third resident to wander off from the facility since November.

A missing persons report filed with the police on January 30 - just three days before Byers was found dead outside the facility - indicated an elderly man wandered out of the center unnoticed before being found in Aspermont, Texas, two hours down the road.

Another occurrence in 2008 left one resident in handcuffs after he jumped the fence at Tumbleweed. The resident was then accused of burglarizing a local dollar store.

Police records indicate multiple accounts of harassment and injury within the fenced gates of the care center.
The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services cited the facility for 10 deficiencies, alone, in 2010 including repeated offenses for the mistreatment of residents, the hiring of workers with legal history of abuse and neglect, and safe living areas.

Cecelia Fedorov with the D.A.D.S agency said not only is her agency investigating the care center following the death but is staffing the center with regional staff from the agency.
"We did find there was a situation at the facility which was placing the residents in immediate jeopardy,” Fedorov said. “We will have our regional staff on site at the facility to monitor the situation as the facility works to correct the situation until we are satisfied those residents are no longer in immediate jeopardy."

Brownfield police said there are still many questions to be answered in this case.

When we attempted to reach the facility for a comment, the facility administrator Aaron Jewell released a statement saying: “Tumbleweed administration expresses its deepest sympathy to the family of our recently deceased resident. The matter is currently under investigation.”

A cause of death has not yet been released.
Brownfield nursing home under investigation following death|myFOXlubbock | FOX 34 News KJTV Lubbock, Texas

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