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State reaches settlement in criminal neglect case

State reaches settlement in criminal neglect case



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Attorney General's Office has reached a settlement with the operators of a residential care facility in Bountiful over a neglect case involving a severely disabled man.

Eric Hale's emaciated condition was discovered in April of 2007 when staff at the REM-Utah facility called an ambulance because Hale had fainted. His once 200-pound body weighed just over 100 pounds, and it was full of pressure sores.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Steed said Hale's caretakers insisted Hale had been eating a regular, healthy diet.

"You do not eat a regular, healthy diet and lose around 100 pounds in a year's time; and you certainly don't get to that level of emaciation and malnutrition without a reasonable person being alarmed," Steed said.

Hale eventually died after undergoing surgery for a medical problem.

Two people -- Jessica Poole, the victims' direct care giver, and Melissa Strickland, Poole's supervisor -- were initially charged with felony neglect. However, they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case.

"I don't believe that any of the actors necessarily had an intent to harm Mr. Hale, but the gross incompetence and negligence in this case was appalling," Steed said.

Steed said in a residential care setting in that Hale was in, staff members are not necessarily required to certify as a CNA or registered nurse. In fact, he said most of the training is on the job.

The state also sought civil penalties against the company, initially alleging it had billed Medicaid for services it did not give. They recently settled with REM-Utah's parent company for $365,000.

E-mail: mgiauque@ksl.com

Marc Giauque

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