Three people accused of having been negligent in their role as caregivers have been charged in connection with the death of an 86-year-old woman who died June 14 after being left out in the heat for six hours, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a news release Tuesday.
His office said in the release that the charges arise from the death of Hazel Place at Cappella Assisted Living and Memory Care in Grand Junction. An investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Colorado Department of Law and the Grand Junction Police Department found that Jamie Johnston, 30; Jenny Logan, 50; and Letticia Martinez, 27; were responsible for Place’s death.
The Attorney General’s Office didn’t provide details surrounding the circumstances of Place’s death. National Weather Service data shows that the official high temperature in Grand Junction on June 14 was 102 degrees.
Johnston, Logan and Martinez face felony charges of negligent death of an at-risk person and criminally negligent homicide. Martinez and Johnston also are charged with second-degree forgery, a misdemeanor.
The forgery charge against Martinez allegedly involves a record of patient medication administration, while Johnston is accused of forging a record of patient checks, according to the criminal complaints filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
Cappella said in a prepared statement that while it can’t share details about Place’s death, it immediately reported the circumstances surrounding it to appropriate regulatory agencies and launched an internal investigation. It also has cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office on the matter, it said.
“Our internal investigation resulted in the dismissal of two team members, who were subsequently charged by the Colorado Attorney General. The third team member is now on investigatory leave,” Cappella said.
“We are very saddened by the passing of this beloved resident, and we continue to send our sincerest sympathy to this resident’s family and friends.”
An obituary for Place said she was born in Rifle and went to school there. She was survived by three children and their in-laws, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had enjoyed bowling, sewing and gardening.
“When our loved ones are vulnerable and in need of care, Colorado residents should be able to trust their caregivers implicitly,” Weiser said in his office’s release. “My department is committed to holding accountable those who take advantage of and cause harm to our state’s older residents.”
Sgt. Sean Crocker of the Grand Junction Police Department said in the release, “We appreciate the collaborative effort put forth by all agencies involved during the process of this investigation. Cases of this nature are not only difficult for the family and friends of the victim, but for all those involved. We are thankful that the outcome of this investigation will provide some closure to the family.”
Cappella’s facility is located on 26-1/2 Road. The Daily Sentinel previously has reported that ground broke on the site in 2016, and that Denver not-for-profit Christian Living Communities bought it in 2019 from Confluent Senior Living. Christian Living Communities’ managing and consulting division, Cappella Living Solutions, has operated it since its opening, having partnered on the project with Confluent Senior Living, a subsidiary of Confluent Development. Cappella runs other sites in Colorado and other states.
“We care for each other,” Cappella said in its statement Tuesday. “It is one of our most deeply held values as a community, and the ideal we strive for in our daily work in creating a wonderful community where older adults share in making a home.”
According to Weiser’s office, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit “is dedicated to protecting the integrity of the system that provides healthcare to the most vulnerable Coloradans. It accomplishes this through the investigation and prosecution of Medicaid provider fraud as well as the investigation and prosecution of the abuse and neglect of Medicaid clients in non-institutional settings as well as the abuse and neglect of patients in institutions that receive Medicaid dollars.”
Anyone wanting to report suspected Medicaid fraud or abuse can contact the Department of Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-508-6696.