ShareThis Page
Nursing home head to stand trial in patient’s death |

Nursing home head to stand trial in patient’s death

| Tuesday, March 30, 2004 12:00 a.m

The administrator of a Robinson nursing home and the nonprofit company she runs must stand trial in the 2001 death of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient, a district justice ruled Monday.

Martha Bell, 57, of West Mifflin, administrator of the Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing, Research and Rehabilitation Center, will also face trial on theft charges stemming from $51,500 in checks she withdrew from the home’s payroll account.

Robinson District Justice Carla Swearingen’s ruling came after the final day of testimony in a preliminary hearing that lasted five days and brought testimony from 19 witnesses.

“It feels very good to have come this far,” said Jane Baczewski of Hopewell, Beaver County. Her mother, Mabel Taylor, 88, was found dead on the sidewalk by nursing home employees after being locked out of the 120-bed Campbells Run Road facility in 40-degree weather on Oct. 26, 2001.

Prosecutors allege that Bell ran a short-staffed facility that led to inadequate supervision of Alzheimer’s patients. She also conspired to cover up Taylor’s death by cleaning her and placing her in a overheated room to make it appear as if she died there, prosecutors say.

“The defendant knew exactly what could happen to Alzheimer’s patients,” Assistant District Attorney Tom Merrick told Swearingen.

Bell’s attorneys argued that previous testimony indicated Taylor wasn’t prone to wander, so there was no way for Bell to know she was at risk.

“No one could have foreseen that Mabel Taylor could have wandered,” said Al Lindsay, the attorney representing the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Disease Alliance of Western Pennsylvania, which operated the now-closed home.

Bell is charged with involuntary manslaughter, neglect of a care-dependent person and reckless endangerment individually and as head of Alzheimer’s Alliance. Bell also is charged with criminal conspiracy in Taylor’s death.

In a separate but related case, Bell is charged with two counts each of theft, theft by deception and theft by failing to make the required disposal of funds.

Prosecutors said Bell withdrew two checks — one for $11,500 and one for $40,000 — from the nursing home’s payroll account, leaving only $76.21 in the account. Paychecks for about 24 employees bounced, according to testimony yesterday.

The checks were withdrawn on Oct. 23, the day after Allegheny County Judge Lawrence O’Toole issued an order barring Bell from any involvement with Atrium.

Bell’s criminal defense attorney, Thomas Ceraso, argued that Bell didn’t officially receive the order until Oct. 30 and therefore didn’t know of the injunction when she withdrew the money.

Swearingen, who arraigned Bell on Oct. 22, disputed that.

“She was fully aware of the order,” Swearingen said. “I know. I handed it to her.”

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.