Volume 5, Number 12 - June 16, 2005
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Pinedale woman faces charges of abuse of center resident
Allegations of mistreatment have Patricia Ellis facing prosecution after six co-workers gave statements to a Sublette County investigator.
The Pinedale woman was charged on June 3 with three felony counts of abuse, neglect and exploitation of three separate vulnerable adults.
Sublette County Sheriff's Office Detective James Schmidt investigated the case after receiving notification from the Wyoming Department of Family Services to law enforcement of an allegation of suspected abuse and humiliation, according to court documents. In all, six former co-workers of Ellis gave Schmidt information and were cited in an affidavit as claiming to have heard or seen abuse by Ellis to Ruth Hardy, Emma Meeks and Francis Zakotnik.
Court documents reveal accusations of Ellis allegedly inflicting abuse and humiliation over a period of three to four years, from 2001 to the date of her resignation in 2004.
A summary of complaints filed against Ellis, while she was employed as a charge nurse on the medical floor included actions such as "holding a resident's nose to make her eat her meal, withholding coffee from residents, making signs in regards to a resident spitting, placing a garbage can on a resident's table while they were eating with other residents, she was (allegedly) heard to say, 'shut up you old bat,' referring to a patient."
Ellis is also accused of telling a demented resident who was distraught about her mother being ill, "Your mother died, now get over it!"
Another apparent incident alleges that Ellis had been seen standing in a hallway watching a resident who was stuck between two doors on the floor and laughing that the resident could not find her way out and apparently saying, "Just leaver her there for a while."
A co-worker of Ellis claimed that she had observed Ellis make "inappropriate actions" or heard statements that were "verbally abusive" toward residents.
The affidavit indicated Hardy as the primary victim of the alleged abuse.
One co-worker reported to Schmidt that she had observed sometimes subtle and not so subtle abuse of Ruth Hardy by Ellis. According to the documents, the woman stated, "I believe in my heart that Ruth quit eating because of the hostility that was directed toward her regularly by Patti and (another nurse) in the dining room."
Ellis apparently posted signs about Hardy's habit of spitting. "When that did not work, Ellis got a spray bottle and began squirting Ruth Hardy with water every time she spit," according to court documents.
The co-worker reported in the affidavit, "Patricia thought it was very funny and got some of the nurse's aides involved with spray bottles of their own."
According to another co-worker, Ellis' alleged torment of Hardy was common practice "anywhere she went during the time period of 2001 through 2004."
Yet another co-worker claimed that she had observed Ellis yell at residents, including Hardy, for not eating or being too noisy, which occurred about one month prior to Hardy's death.
Other allegations in the court documents include statements from co-workers that Ellis inappropriately used Tylenol PM to allegedly sedate resident Francis Zakotnik when she was acting in a demented state and upset about her mother being ill.
In another incident cited by a co-worker, resident Emma Meeks was apparently forced out of bed with a broken leg and taken to the dinning room where Ellis allegedly forced Meeks to eat by holding her nose till her mouth would open and then stuff pureed food into her mouth.
Sublette County Attorney Van Graham said Monday that while the case is a Sublette County case, he has assigned the prosecution to Lincoln County Attorney Scott Sargent as special prosecutor for the case.
"I assigned (the case) to a special prosecutor because of the pending civil suit by her (Ellis) against the county," Graham said.
Last summer, Ellis filed a million dollar lawsuit against the Sublette County Sheriff's Office, as well as against the sheriff and individual deputies, claiming they had violated her civil rights as well as several common laws in an August 2003 incident.
Sublette County Circuit Court Judge John Crow also assigned the case on June 6 to Third Judicial District Circuit Court in Green River with Judge Victoria E. Schofield.
Sargent said Tuesday that he does not comment on cases that he is prosecutes.
According to cuircuit court, Ellis has a hearing set for 9:30 a.m. on July 1.
The three felony charges carry sentences of 10 years with fines of up to $10,000 or both.
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