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CBS4 Miami

I-Team: Is Anybody Watching? Part II

Aug 20, 2009

Reporting
Michele Gillen

MIAMI (CBS4) ― A few weeks ago,CBS4 Chief I-Team Investigator Michele Gillen began to shine a light on the problems of the inappropriate placement of registered sex offenders, violent offenders, the mentally ill and the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around South Florida. It's been termed a "perfect storm that is being created and it is causing all kinds of horrible damage to this very vulnerable population," by Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman.

"The state is so broke they just barely have enough people to oversee the adult living facility. In Dade County alone, there are 1400 adult living facilities. I think there's one inspector for the whole state, in Miami Dade," he noted.

Darryl McGee is accused of raping an Alzheimer's patient at a long-term care facility in West Kendall. It's a world, in which the I-Team found, the vulnerable and frail are unknowingly living in facilities, even in locked wings, alongside predators and offenders.

"It makes me crazy. It's wrong. We need to let the public know about what's going on, "said Clare Caldwell, Regional Director for the Florida Ombudsman Council, Volunteer advocates for the elderly living in long term care.

"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," she explained.

For example: 77 year old Virginia Thurston raped, according to police reports, in a nursing home by another resident, Ivey Edwards, who was placed to live there by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The I-Team discovered Edwards had 58 prior arrests being moving into the facility. Just last week, 33 year old Darryl McGee, who lived in the Alzheimer's unit of the Munne Assisted Living Facility, was in court for the alleged rape of a fellow resident. She is a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's. The I-team discovered he had more than a dozen prior arrests, including assault.

Leifman says he has long been concerned about poor and inappropriate conditions in many long term care facilities, some of which he describes as "really horrible places, one step better than jail but not much more."

So he launched a separate inspection program, called the Quality Care Program which mandates tougher criteria for folks the court places in ALF's. In other words, men and women who have been arrested and are coming out of jail have a shot at finding better and safer housing than even the agency for healthcare administration - AHCA- requires.

It's an added layer of screening most elderly residents in Florida don't get.

"I would like the state of Florida to pay AHCA and DCF to hire enough inspectors to inspect all 1400 facilities and then we would not have this problem," Leifman explains as he believes the bar needs to rise for all residents of these facilities, particularly the frailest.

Elder abuse advocates have suggested that, at minimum, facilities should post notice that registered sex offenders are living there, so that families are made aware and can make an informed choices.

But as the I-Team has demonstrated, often those charged with rape like Darryl McGee and Ivy Edwards are ruled incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness. So while they have been arrested for rape when released from a state treatment facility, if they are not capable of standing trial, there's no conviction and they won't appear on the sex offender registry list. In the end many are able to end up in another nursing, living alongside the elderly and frail once again.

"So basically we have uncovered a crevice here?" asked Gillen.

"You have, you have found a crack in the system," Judge Leifman responded. "The legislature has to take a look at this and fix it. Unfortunately they are putting the community at risk by not addressing the problem."

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