OTTAWA — According to Putnam County court documents, Debra Wehrle, senior assistant attorney general with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, has been approved as a special prosecutor to investigate criminal offenses allegedly committed by Hilty Memorial Nursing Home, Pandora, in connection with the Jan. 7 death of Phyllis Campbell, 76, a resident of the facility.
Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers filed a request to have a special prosecuting attorney assigned to the case on April 16.
According to an investigation by the Ohio Department of Health, Campbell was a resident at of the memory care unit at Hilty Memorial Nursing Home, and at 12:35 a.m. Jan. 7, she wandered through a propped-open door to the dining room and left the facility through a door to the courtyard. The door she exited had an alarm that should have alerted staff when it was opened and Campbell wore a device that should have went off when she wandered outside, but the device didn’t always work when it passed sensors, officials found after testing it.
Two nurse aides admitted to not doing scheduled bed checks at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., even though they had documented the checks as completed.
According to the Putnam County Court log, Putnam County Coroner Dr. Anna Mae Horstman listed Campbell’s cause of death as hypothermia and her time of death was estimated to have been between 1 and 2 a.m. Temperatures dipped below minus-2 degrees that night, and Campbell was found dead in the facility courtyard the next morning.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office deferred all questions concerning this investigation to the Putnam County Prosecutor’s Office.
Lammers did not return multiple phone calls and messages Monday and Tuesday, but in the written request for special prosecution submitted to the Putnam County Court of Common Pleas, he said, “the interests of justice would be self served by the Ohio Attorney General and/or his assistants prosecuting the aforementioned criminal violations as his office assisted in the investigation that provides the foundation for the contemplated litigation.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.