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CBS4 Miami

I-Team: Is Anybody Watching?

Aug 14, 2009

Reporting
Michele Gillen

MIAMI (CBS4) ― Earlier this year, the CBS4 I-Team uncovered how sexual predators and violent offenders were living in facilities with parent and grandparents who can no longer care for themselves. Now, a wider ranging investigation by I-Team investigator Michele Gillen has found across South Florida, a toxic mix of ex-cons, the mentally ill, sex predators and offenders and the frail all living together in long-term care facilities.

Gillen now shows you a case that opens a window to a growing problem that experts say without dramatic change, any of us could face.

The silence of the night was shattered by what nurse's aides discovered in room 720 of the sprawling west Kendall assisted living facility, the Munne Center.

"This is what her hands were doing" a fellow former resident told Chief I-Team investigator Michele Gillen, describing the image she says she can't forget of a frightened 71-year-old Alzheimer's patient whose hands were trembling. According to police reports, the resident had been brutally raped. Not by a stranger or a worker, but allegedly by 33-year-old Darryl McGee.

A man his own mother told Gillen, suffers from mental illness and should not have been allowed to live alongside the most vulnerable. A man the I-Team discovered had been arrested more than a dozen times in his home state of Tennessee before moving into the Munne Center into of all things, the Alzheimer's unit.

"I can tell you, people here were heartbroken over what occurred," Shaun Ellsworth, attorney for the facility's owner told Gillen, punctuating what happened that night by saying, "the unit was left unsupervised."

At the time of the sexual assault Ellsworth said there were 3 nursing assistants present in the Alzheimer's wing, and one of them who would have been in position to observe traffic in and out of the rooms, just left, walking out of the facility. "Without telling anyone" Ellsworth said.

Notified something very wrong was happening, staff found the 71-year-old, naked from the waist down, saying over and over, I'm hurt, I'm hurt."

"I hurt for that woman as well. And I know that you do too. We all do. We know that it could be anybody in any of these facilities. We have an obligation to make that stop," said Clare Caldwell, Regional Director for the Florida Ombudsman Council, volunteer advocates protecting the rights of nursing home and ALF residents.

She continued, "In our state, the Munne Center has had more Ombudsmen investigations than any other facility in the State of Florida. We have had more than 400 investigations there this year."

"What needs to happen," Gillen asked.

"I think the facility needs to be shut down if you want to know," Caldwell insisted. "The horrendous situation is when people with past records, or people with violence in their background are housed in the same type of facility as with frail elderly and then if there is not enough supervision or staff in the building .You have a catastrophe waiting to happen."

State reports reveal McGee's apparent trail of violence, alcohol and abuse at the facility. Time after time, reportedly there was no staff available to intervene.

Two months before the rape he allegedly "was aggressive, punched and pushed another female elderly resident down to the floor." A day before the assault he, "tried to hit another resident."

On another night he reportedly "was not given his medications due to his returning to the facility drunk."

The state found that the Munne Center failed to protect the most vulnerable population, but agreed to a settlement that requires greater oversight allowing it stay open.

"Am I going to tell you we are perfect? No. Am I telling you we are doing everything possible to be perfect, yes," Ellsworth said.

Darryl Mc Gee has been in jail since his arrest more than two years ago. And just months ago he was arrested again while in jail for assaulting a Corrections Officer. His case heads to court Friday and the CBS4 I-Team will be there.

Michele Gillen can be reached at MGillen@wfor.cbs.com