Attorneys, NCDHHS investigating assisted living facility as family seeks answers in man’s death

Attorneys are seeking answers for a family in the death of an assisted living patient.
Attorneys are seeking answers for a family in the death of an assisted living patient.(WECT)
Updated: Oct. 12, 2020 at 11:51 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The family of a man killed at a Wilmington assisted living facility has enlisted the help of a law firm to learn more about his death.

The man died after being attacked by another patient at Spring Arbor Senior Living of Wilmington.

Attorneys Joel Rhine, Janet Coleman and Martin Ramey of the Rhine Law Firm and Jim Lea and Ryan Schultz of The Lea/Schultz Law Firm are conducting their own investigation of the incident along with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The attack, which police ultimately ruled a homicide after consulting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, occurred on Sept. 6, and the man died in the hospital on Sept. 12.

According to a press release from the family’s attorneys, the timeline of events as-reported “do not add up."

The family and the attorneys are asking anyone with information about the Sept. 6 incident to come forward.

“The decision to place a loved one into any form of assisted living setting or nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions a family ever has to make,” Lea said. “And, when a family has to make it, they expect that their loved one will be cared for with the utmost of care and concern.”

According to the release, the attack is believed to have happened while the victim was sleeping after the attacker gained access to his room.

“We want to know why the attacker had access to that room. Was there anything in the history of the attacker that might have suggested that the patient could hurt others? How many staff were on duty at the time of the attack, and what did they do about it? There are lots of unanswered questions,” Rhine said.

Richard Williams, senior vice president of Spring Arbor Senior Living, the parent company of the Wilmington location, said they have been cooperating with the agencies investigating, and they extend their condolences to the man’s family.

In a statement sent to WECT Monday afternoon, Williams said the incident was not witnessed, but took place before 6 a.m. on Sept. 6 in the cottage dedicated for those with dementia.

The statement reads:

“Families entrust Spring Arbor of Wilmington with the care and safety of their loved ones, and we take that responsibility very seriously. While Spring Arbor of Wilmington cannot anticipate and prevent every incident or fall, we have systems in place to respond quickly when unexpected events occur within the community. Spring Arbor of Wilmington will continue working with licensure agencies to investigate the details of this incident and determine whether steps can be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

The facility’s most recent state inspection was on Sept. 11, and reported no deficiencies, though attorneys for the family claim it has a history of issues.

They are asking anyone with information call (910) 772-9960 or (910) 239-5990.

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