CHERRYVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) – Late this past summer, Renee Herwin had suspicions about the care her 86-year-old mother, Skip MacNally, was getting at the Peak Resources nursing home in Cherryville, N.C. So, she decided to install a hidden camera to find out.
Herwin bought a picture frame with a tiny camera hidden at the bottom. She put it on a counter top in her mom’s room. She had disturbing video of staff at the nursing home abusing her mother almost immediately.
“I put the camera in on August 28. On August 29 I had a video of abuse,” she said. She had a second video within 24 hours of installing the camera.
The first video shows a nursing assistant yelling at MacNally—who is blind and suffers from alzheimer’s disease—while changing her. In the video, you see the nursing assistant go from yelling at MacNally to violently moving her across the bed while changing her. MacNally cries out in pain several times over the course of the video.
“Have I done something?” MacNally asks the nursing assistant towards the end of the video.
“Devil’s wife,” the nursing assistant responds.
Herwin expected the hidden camera to capture evidence of her mother not being properly fed or going long periods of time without being checked on. She didn’t expect to find her mom being violently abused by staff.
“I was livid,” Herwin said of the first time she saw the video. “It was, ‘oh my God, I can’t believe –‘ this was the last thing I expected.”
Herwin took the video to the nursing home’s director, who fired the two employees captured in the two videos and called DSS and police.
In a statement, the nursing home administrator, Kris Thompson, confirmed the incident but said he could not discuss the matter further due to federal privacy laws.
“The mission and main priority of our facility is the safety and well-being of our residents, and we endeavor to respond accordingly to anything that might negatively impact any resident,” Thompson said. “Our top priority, as always, is to remain committed to our residents and their families and we will continue to do so in this situation.”
A DSS report shows a social worker confirmed MacNally was abused but indicates the social worker didn’t open an investigation because, the form says, the two employees were fired.
Herwin said police also investigated and a detective called her to say he wanted to press charges.
“Well, he called me about four days later, told me the (assistant district attorney) was not going to file charges. I didn’t understand,” Herwin said.
To date, no charges have been filed against the employees in the video.
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell did not respond to multiple messages seeking an explanation as to why he would not file charges for elder abuse, which is a crime under North Carolina law.
Herwin said she met with Bell but didn’t walk away from that meeting with any better understanding as to why he wouldn’t act.
“I told him that, based on the way the law is now, if a background check was run on this CNA, there would be nothing to alert them that there were abuse confirmations. That’s as far as I got with him and he blurted out, ‘You want me to destroy this woman’s life!’” Herwinn recalled of her meeting with Bell.
Herwin said Bell watched the video, told her he didn’t see anything criminal in the video and ended the meeting.
“That’s all he said,” Herwin recalled. “No explanation. Nothing.”
Herwin called WBTV in hopes the story of what happened to her mother would draw attention to a system that has lax regulation and little oversight.
Because charges weren’t pressed against either nursing assistant, Herwin fears no future employer will ever know what they did to her mother.
“They need to have consequences for their actions! If you don’t have any consequences, it’s just going to continue to get worse,” she said.