Three former employees of the Sandy Springs Place senior living center have been arrested following separate incidents that resulted in the deaths of two residents and injuries to two others, police said Friday.
Authorities launched an investigation at the Hightower Trail facility in May when the family of a 79-year-old man came forward with allegations of elder abuse, Sandy Springs police spokesman Sgt. Sal Ortega said in a news release.
According to police, John Furman was found on the floor in early April after falling inside the assisted living facility.
“As a result of this fall, the victim suffered a laceration to his head and massive bruising to his face,” Ortega said.
Staff members reported the injuries to facility manager Katrina Perkins and facility director Jeffrey Smith, but both failed to notify paramedics or Furman’s family members, investigators said.
“Due to these injuries, the victim’s health started to decline rapidly; however, family members were unaware and not allowed to visit him due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Ortega said.
Police said the family wasn’t made aware of the man’s injuries until a third-party nurse was brought in by the center to look at severe pressure ulcers caused by staff members not properly turning the patient. The nurse took photos of the man’s ulcers and sent them to his family, who decided to remove Furman from the home.
On the day Furman was set to leave, however, police said Perkins gave him a doughnut to eat without first conducting a “swallow test” to assess the man’s risk of dysphagia. Furman ended up choking and died two days later.
A subsequent autopsy revealed the 79-year-old had pieces of dough in his throat, and his cause of death was determined to be asphyxia. Both Smith and Perkins were charged with felony neglect of an elder person at a facility and arrested.
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Officers launched a second investigation at the home in July after an employee allegedly assaulted an 81-year-old resident during an argument.
Investigators determined Tiffany Taylor shoved Roy Onan to the ground, breaking his hip, Ortega said. Following the incident, Onan was removed from the home and transferred to a rehabilitation center, where he contracted COVID-19. He was eventually released from the center and moved home with family members, though he was unable to walk, police said.
He died the second week of October.
“To push him, it’s beyond me how that could happen,” Annette Simpson, Onan’s daughter, told Channel 2 Action News.
Taylor, the employee accused of pushing him, was arrested on charges of aggravated battery and elder abuse, authorities said.
A third investigation was launched at the facility Oct. 17 after two residents got into a fight and injured each other, according to police.
One of the residents, Alan Staines, was found lying on the ground while the second resident, Servillano Avelino, suffered bruises to his head as a result of the fight. Both were taken to the hospital, though neither man’s family was notified of the fight, according to police.
“Due to the mental capacity of both residents, the lack of a third-party witness, and not knowing who started the fight, no charges were brought forth,” Ortega said, adding that both families were concerned the fight took place inside the facility. It’s also unclear how long Staines was lying on the ground before he was discovered by staff members.
Police said investigators have been in contact with the Georgia Department of Community Health regarding the allegations at the assisted living facility. Authorities also said Sandy Springs Place has since replaced its entire staff and is now under new management.
“The bottom line is these cases are not common,” Ortega told Channel 2. “They should not happen, and it’s a tragedy.”
Smith was recently hired by another assisted living facility in Canton, Channel 2 reported. His attorney told the news station that Smith is innocent.
The criminal investigations are ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to call Detective JT Williams at 770-551-6937 or send an email to JTWilliams@SandySpringsGA.gov.