OTTAWA — A Putnam County jury spent Monday afternoon viewing a 90-minute video of a police interview with Megan Schnipke as the trial of the 31-year-old Columbus Grove woman got under way.
Schnipke is charged with one count of forgery, one count of gross patient neglect and one count of patient neglect for allegedly failing to follow protocols and procedures and contributing to the death of a resident at a Pandora nursing home earlier this year.
Phyllis Campbell, 76, was found dead Jan. 7 outside the Hilty Memorial Nursing Home in Pandora after she fled the facility unnoticed. The cause of death was determined to be hypothermia.
Schnipke was one of three employees at the nursing home to be charged in connection with Campbell’s death. The other two other workers have already been sentenced.
A jury of seven men and five woman was seated Monday morning in Putnam County Common Pleas Court to hear the case. By the time the first witness took the stand after lunch, one of the female jurors had been removed by Judge Keith Schierloh for unspecified reasons. A male alternate juror was added to the 12-member jury.
The afternoon was dominated by the testimony of Pandora Police Chief Scott Stant, who recounted for jurors what he found upon his arrival at the nursing home on the morning of Jan. 7.
He said Campbell’s body was found outside the facility on the “bitter cold morning” with temperatures in the single digits. Stant also testified that his subsequent investigation determined that some alarms at the home failed to activate on the night in question even though Campbell was wearing what was termed a “Wonder Guard” device intended to set off those alarms.
Stant also conducted the interview with Schnipke that was played for jurors. She told the chief she put Campbell to bed around midnight and “did not recall” any alarms going off inside the nursing home for the remainder of that evening.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Grzybowski, Stant said the Wonder Guard device worn by Campbell was not working properly on the night of her death and was not properly attached to the patient. The manufacturer of the device recommends it be worn on patients’ wrists, but Stant testified that the director of nursing at Hilty Home said the alarm should be placed on Campbell’s ankle because she continually removed it from her wrist.
In his opening statements, Grzybowski said the evidence “will show that Megan Schnipke is not criminally liable for these charges.” He said problems with alarm systems at the home, the failures of low-level staffers to follow proper procedures and poor administrative policies are actually to blame.
Providing opening statements for the state was Deb Wehrle, representing the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Wehrle told jurors the evidence would show that Schnipke failed to provide proper care by ignoring an order that Campbell — who had been experiencing “heightened wandering tendencies” and who frequently attempted to exit the facility in the days and weeks prior to her death — remain under constant supervision.
Wehrle said Schnipke “admitted that she shopped online for furniture” in the last hours of Campbell’s death and “falsely charted the woman as being inside the nursing home at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 7 — a time when the woman was “already dead outside — or very near to it.”