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Former nursing home employee charged

May 01, 2001

Former nursing home employee charged



By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Washington County Sheriff's deputies have charged a former nursing assistant at Avalon Manor Nursing Home on Marsh Pike with sexually molesting six residents in his care between November and early March.

The charges against John E. Barrett, 44, of 17002 Burwood Court, include six counts each of third-degree sex offense, second-degree assault, and vulnerable adult abuse. The sex offense and assault charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years each. The vulnerable adult abuse counts carry a maximum penalty of five years each.

The victims, all of whom are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, include five women and one man ranging in age from 76-89, according to a police report by Cpl. Pete Lazich, the chief investigator in the case. The police report was filed with court charging documents.

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Lazich said he served Barrett with criminal summonses after conferring with the Washington County State's Attorney's office. Barrett was not jailed, Lazich said.

Ruth Jesson, director of nursing at Avalon, confirmed Monday that Barrett was no longer employed at the home.

According to court records, Lazich got a telephone call on March 5 from Avalon administrator Mike Modresky about allegations of inappropriate sexual contact between Barrett and several patients. Lazich said Modresky told him other staff members had witnessed the sexual contact.

Modresky is no longer administrator at Avalon, Jesson said. Acting administrator Richard Balogh was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Kelly Redmond, spokesman for the Magnolia Corporation, Avalon's parent company, said Barrett worked at Avalon from last July until March 3, when the first complaint was made.

Redmond stressed that Avalon does background checks on all potential employees, and hires employees only with clean records.

Based on the March 5 call, Lazich went to Avalon Manor and interviewed Lisa Wentzell, a nursing assistant, who reported seeing Barrett fondling female residents' breasts and kissing them on the lips on several occasions in February, according to court records.

Wentzell also told of an incident involving a male patient who was touched in the genital area by Barrett, according to court records.

Lazich's report also says Rhonda Kling, an in-charge nursing assistant, told Lazich that she had heard one resident complain about Barrett touching her genital area while he was washing her in her room.

Wentzell told Lazich she confronted Barrett about his inappropriate behavior, but Barrett just laughed, according to court records.

Another employee, Sandra Stoops, told Modresky she had seen Barrett touch a female resident's breast in a way that could not be considered patient care, according to court records.

On March 6, Lazich called Barrett to come to the sheriff's department for an interview on the allegations.

Barrett told Lazich he would kiss residents on their foreheads and hug them, according to court records. He also admitted patting a female resident on her buttocks, but only as a joke, according to court records.

When Lazich told Barrett of the allegations he touched women's breasts and genitals and a male resident's genitals, Barrett admitted he came up behind a number of women and "shook" their breasts, but only in a joking manner, according to court records.

He denied that he received any sexual gratification from the touching and was only "carrying on" with them, court records said.

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