DENVER -- Three people have been arrested and two others are on the loose after Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced Friday plans to prosecute two deaths as homicides at long-term care facilities.
The deaths of the at-risk adults -- one with dementia, the other with disabling seizures -- led to the charges of the five employees at long-term care centers.
“It makes me both angry and distressed that we have these situations,” Coffman said. “These are both horrifying cases, and they were preventable deaths in both instances.”
Mary Gatewood, who had advanced dementia, was staying at Ashley Manor Assisted Living Facility in Wheat Ridge when she died on June 15, 2016.
Records show the 94-year-old fell into a landscaped rock bed in the home's backyard. She was left for more than 90 minutes in approximately 90-degree weather before anyone found her.
An autopsy listed heat stress as the primary cause of death.
“We have controls in place from a policy and procedure standpoint, and unfortunately these circumstance occurred because those articles were not followed," Bill Boles with Ashley Manor said.
Caretakers are supposed to check on residents every 15 minutes. Surveillance video shows that didn't happen, and three people have been charged in Gatewood's death.
Deidre Lopez, 32, has been arrested, while Roxanne Ousley, 36, and Jasmine Salgado, 22, have not been located. Each has been charged with criminally negligent homicide of an at-risk adult.
Managers at Ashley Manor say Gatewood's death should have never happened.
“I’m extremely, extremely sorry on behalf of the resident," Boles said. "We’re in this type of a business because we care, because we are mission-driven people, and when something like this occurs, it strikes at our very core.”
The second case involved Secrest House, where Buddhi Rai lived.
Rai drowned on Nov. 20, 2014, when the staff left him unattended in the bathtub despite orders to always keep an eye on him.
“We are sorry for that sad event and we hope it won’t happen again,” said Patrick Bekoe with Secrest House.
Victoria Pletting, 62, and Joanita Serwadda, 52, were arrested for their roles in Rai's death.
Pletting was charged with manslaughter, and both women were charged with criminally negligent homicide of an at-risk adult.
“Folks were not watching and as they were supposed to be, and it’s very sad to me because I think of both of these victims suffering and dying deaths that they didn’t have to,” Coffman said.
“If this is what it takes to improve the system and to have better care for our older adults, then we will keep pursuing these cases.”