HERMANTOWN, Minnesota — Administrators at a senior living home in northern Minnesota impeded an investigation into the sexual assault of an 89-year-old resident by attempting to pin the blame on the victim, according to recently filed court documents.
A caregiver at the Edgewood Vista home in Hermantown had already acknowledged having sex with the resident but an administrator claimed the resident had flirted with the assailant and fabricated the assault, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1fjYsL8 ).
The caregiver, 30-year-old Andrew Scott Merzwski, was sentenced last month to 53 months in prison.
The state Department of Health investigated the assault. It ultimately held the caregiver responsible but not the facility.
The allegations outlined in court documents and testimony in a lawsuit brought on behalf of the woman raise new questions about whether the facility should have been held accountable, said Roberta Opheim, the State Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. The lawsuit was filed against the senior home, two administrators and Merzwski.
Health department officials cited records saying the agency initiated an investigation on Jan. 28, 2013, 10 days after the sexual assault. Investigators considered whether Edgewood Vista was also to blame but found that the facility had policies to prevent abuse as well as documentation that Merzwski had received abuse-prevention training.
Edgewood Management Group of Grand Forks, North Dakota, which owns the Hermantown facility, said in a statement that it cooperated fully with authorities.
However, even after Merzwski acknowledged the sexual assault to police, an administrator told nurse examiner Theresa Flesvig the victim "was making it up" and was a "flirt," the newspaper reported.
"I was just shocked that somebody was so blatantly putting the blame on this woman," Flesvig said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com