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Family Sues Nursing Home in Alleged Sex Attack

Family Sues Nursing Home in Alleged Sex Attack

Carla K. Johnson

May 15, 2009

The family of a 69-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit against a suburban nursing home for failing to protect her from being sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old mentally ill resident.

Maplewood Care’s administrator tried to cover up a rape by calling it consensual sex, said attorney Pete Flowers, who represents the woman’s family and called the case against the Elgin facility the most flagrant example of nursing home negligence he has seen.

It also is an example of how mixing frail senior citizens and younger mentally ill residents in nursing homes can lead to violence if facilities do not monitor potentially dangerous residents, Flowers said.

“The only possible reason that you would be in this situation is a profit motive,” he said. “You want more residents in your facility, but you’re unwilling to pay for the necessary elements to protect all the residents.”

Ron Nunziato, an executive with Lincolnwood-based S.I.R. Management, which operates the nursing home and seven other Chicago-area facilities, said he had no comment on the lawsuit or the alleged rape in January.

Christopher Shelton was missing at bed check, but “no search was made or alarm sounded to alert residents and staff that a young, aggressive, sexually frustrated, convicted felon was prowling the halls of the nursing home,” the lawsuit alleges.

Later, a night shift nurse heard an elderly woman moaning and entered her room, a state investigation found. The nurse found the alleged victim crying and Shelton in her bathroom, where he was calling 911 to report that someone was attacking the woman.

Paramedics and an emergency room doctor later examined the woman and noted signs of sexual trauma, according to the state investigator’s report.

Shelton had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with aggression when he was admitted to the nursing home in November. The state report showed he had told the nursing home staff in December that he was sexually frustrated, but the facility failed to monitor him more closely.

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