Witnesses Testify To Alleged Abuse in California Nursing Home
Posted: Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 at 1:03 pm
After a yearlong investigation, and over a year spent in custody by the alleged perpetrator, the trial has begun in the case of a Calabasas, California retirement home employee accused of beating residents.
Cesar Ulloa, now 21, was just 19 at the time of the alleged abuses. A low-level employee, Ulloa is accused of having punched, body-slammed, jumped on and otherwise attacked and abused the elderly clientele of the upscale Silverado Senior Living facility.
One witness, a fellow employee, recalled walking into a resident’s room in time to see Ulloa leaping from a dresser and landing atop the male resident, with both knees landing in the resident’s stomach. Another former caregiver at the nursing home testified that she had seen Ulloa punch a wheelchair-bound man’s stomach. Later, the same man was found hunched over and foaming at the mouth as a result of the abuse. The same caregiver also said that Ulloa taunted the residents, telling one man that he “was sexing his daughter.” In yet another instance, the worker is accused of taking the arm of one wheelchair-bound resident and using it to hit another resident, then laughing.
Many of the alleged victims would have been unable to protest or report the abuses, either because of dementia or physical conditions that left them unable to communicate.
Perhaps the most damning evidence in the case against Ulloa was the information gleaned after a deceased resident’s body was exhumed and examined for signs of brutality. Elmore Kittower died in 2005 at Silverado, presumably of natural causes, but after his widow received a phone call claiming that Kittower was beaten to death, authorities launched an investigation. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies exhumed the man’s body, finding signs of trauma and multiple broken bones, all at different stages of healing. Blunt force trauma was determined by an autopsy to be a contributing factor in Kittower’s death.
Ulloa had been fired before being charged with the crimes, and officials at the nursing home say that his termination was not related to the alleged abuse.
The attorney for Ulloa claims that since Silverado does not restrain or sedate its residents, combative patients are necessarily more injury-prone. Daniel Teola even went so far as to compare the facility to a free-range chicken farm.
“You’re going to have bruises,” he said. “You’re going to have fractures.”
Yet prosecutors say that a number of conditions at the nursing home made it easier for Ulloa to perpetrate the crimes. Inadequate training, low pay for caregivers–$10 an hour for some workers—and a lack of security cameras in the patients’ rooms, where much of their care takes place, may all have contributed to an atmosphere in which the elderly patients were vulnerable to abuse.
Ulloa is charged with seven counts of elder abuse and one count of torture. He could face a life sentence if he is convicted. In a recent 12-month period in California, some 85 people were convicted of elder abuse, but it is estimated that many more cases go unreported or unprosecuted.