OTTAWA – It was difficult at times to know just who was on trial in a Putnam County courtroom on Tuesday.
Was it Megan Schnipke, a nurse accused of falsifying documents and failing to follow proper procedures at Hilty Memorial Home in Pandora, where she was formerly employed? Or was it the nursing home itself?
Technically it was Schnipke, a 32-year-old LPN and former employee of Hilty Home, who is charged with forgery, patient neglect and gross patient neglect for allegedly failing to follow procedures that contributed to the death of the 76-year-old resident of the nursing home.
But the bulk of testimony presented to jurors in day two of Schnipke’s trial centered around failures of the nursing home to provide adequate safeguards for its residents, thereby contributing to the death of Phyllis Campbell, the resident who found her way outside the home on a frigid morning early this year and subsequently froze to death.
Prosecutors called a dozen witnesses to the stand Tuesday — the majority of them current or former nursing staff employees at the home. Two of those have already been convicted of lying about events on the night of Jan. 7 and for falsifying records. Destini Fenbert, 20, and Rachel Friesel, 37, both of Pandora, each were sentenced in late September to five years on probation, 60 days in the county jail and 100 hours of community service after admitting to falsifying bed check documentation forms at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. the day Campbell died.
Campbell was left alone for some 20 minutes on the morning of her death, despite an official care plan that required her to be supervised constantly by staff members at Hilty Memorial Home in Pandora, Tuesday morning’s testimony revealed.
Asked by defense attorney Bob Grzybowksi if Schnipke “appeared to be doing her duty” as shift supervisor that evening, Friesel said the defendant was furniture shopping “on an Ikea website” for an unknown period of time that evening.
Maria Richardson, a second-shift LPN at the nursing home, testified it is common practice for doors leading from the Alzheimer’s unit at Hilty Home into a common area to remain at night to allow staff members to better track patients’ movements. She said Campbell “was supposed to be supervised all the time when the doors were open.”
All of the employees or former employees of Hilty Home who were present on the morning of Jan. 7 testified they heard no alarms come from inside the home that morning that would indicate a resident had attempted to leave the facility.
Afternoon testimony saw Jason Cox, administrator at Hilty Memorial Home, take the witness stand. He said Schnipke’s employment at the home was terminated after she admitted falsifying records, but did admit that some of the home’s safeguards — including door alarms — did not work as intended on the morning of Jan. 7.
Upon cross-examination by Grzybowski, Cox confirmed that Campbell on at least two previous occasions had managed to find her way outside the nursing home but had been apprehended quickly by staffers.
William Nagy, an investigator with the Ohio Department of Health, said Hilty Memorial Home had been found in non-compliance with Medicaid and Medicare regulations and “did not provide residents with a safe environment and did not follow through with all necessary interventions” in place to protect the safety of Phyllis Campbell. He said the home could face monetary penalties as a result.
The state is expected to wrap up its portion of the case Wednesday morning, paving the way for defense witnesses to be called. The jury is expected to get the case later Wednesday.