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Problem Solvers: Family finds roadblocks to visiting Alzheimer’s inmate in jail

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DENVER -- The family of Charles Hill says when the 76-year-old man sat in a wheelchair for his mugshot on Aug. 21, he probably had no idea he was in Denver’s Detention Center downtown.

Hill faces a charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. Police said the weapon was a pillow, but Hill’s wife is sure her husband doesn’t even remember the incident.

“He doesn't know what he's doing cause he got Alzheimer’s. His brain’s just gone,” said his wife of nearly 50 years, Cherry Hill.

The 74-year-old Denver woman said her husband’s legal trouble began at the place he has called home since April 2013: Denver Health Medical Center. That’s where he ended up after being kicked out of six nursing homes.

“His behavior, he would run away,” said Hill, who said she would visit and help bathe her husband every day at Denver Health.

An arrest affidavit states on July 29, Hill walked into patient room 512 and “pulled the pillow from the victim’s right side and put it over her face and was pushing down, smothering” the 23-year-old victim.

The woman’s screams brought nurses running to the rescue and criminal charges against Hill.

“She deserves to have justice for what’s happened to her, “ said Lynn Kimbrough, the communications director for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Kimbrough said charging Hill was appropriate based on the early evidence.

“So at issue now is whether or not this defendant may have been able to actually form criminal intent and that is certainly a question that needs to be addressed as this case goes forward,” Kimbrough said.

Charles Hill’s wife said charging her husband isn’t practical given his dementia and worse, she complains Denver sheriff's deputies at the detention center haven’t allowed her to visit Charles since he was booked more than two months ago.

“They never would let us go see him, and I call day by day,” Cherry Hill said.

Even Hill’s public defender, Wilfredo Rios, told FOX31 Denver that he was denied a visit after a jail nurse told him it would take four deputies to restrain Hill.

Rios said the nurse told him Hill’s dementia makes him combative toward those he doesn’t recognize, which is almost everyone but his wife.

A crying Cherry Hill told FOX31: “Let me go in and see my husband and try to clean him up try to save his life because he's not going to live. He won't live."

The FOX31 Problem Solvers approached Simon Crittle, the spokesman for the Denver Sheriff Department, to ask why in two months, Hill’s family hadn’t been allowed to visit him through the jail’s video-phone booths.

“Look, we really apologize to the family if there's been any misunderstanding or miscommunication. Obviously this person has some special needs. It's a complicated situation,” said Crittle, who promised to accommodate the family’s desire to visit Hill.

“We're doing our best to try and make that happen for them."

Two days later, Cherry Hill saw her husband at the detention center for the first time since he was booked.

“I feel a lot better, lot better just to see him ,” she said. “I thought I’d never see him again, but thank God I’d seen him again.”

Kimbrough said the Denver District Attorney’s Office is waiting for a mental health evaluation before deciding if it will dismiss the case based on Hill’s known diagnosis of vascular dementia.

But that could take months and Charles Hill isn’t due back in court until Jan. 14. In the meantime, his family fears he will waste away in jail, a place they consider a dumping ground for the mentally ill.

“If they can’t find a place to put him, give him back to me. I’ll take him, I’ll do the best I can with him,” Cherry Hill said.