A friend of ours mother worked in a nursing home and she said many of the people in these places have very serious mental problems, some walk up and down the hall all day screaming "Come here, Come here, Come here," to nobody at all. Attacks of all kinds happen all the time, and many patients walk out the front doors to roam the streets. The people in these places are sick, mentally and physically, this happens all the time, it's nothing new, and something a law won't fix.
By Tom Meyer
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, they may be living under the same roof as a sex offender -- and have no idea that they do.
An exclusive Channel 3 investigation found 29 sex offenders living in 16 nursing homes in Northeast Ohio. Two of those nursing homes -- one in a small village in Summit County -- had up to four convicted sex offenders living in them.
"You would not want to live in a nursing home or have a loved one live in a nursing home with a registered sex offender," says Mike DeWine, Ohio's attorney general. But many people do, and a loophole in Ohio law means they don't have to be, and aren't, notified.
While the law requires that neighbors of sex offenders are notified by their local sheriff's office when such a felon moves onto their street, the law does not require similar notification for those who actually share the same address.
"It is a well-intended law. It works many times, but there are certainly some holes in it," DeWine says.
The presence of sex offenders in nursing homes is something that occurs in urban, rural and suburban areas.
Kathy and Romolo DeBottis of Sheffield Lake had no inkling that three sex offenders listed the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Avon as their home. Kathy's father had lived at that nursing home until recently.
"I feel we were deceived," says Kathy.
Her husband agrees, saying sex offenders "shouldn't be in the mainstream population. If they're in a nursing home, they should be in a separate wing."
In Peninsula in Summit County, four sex offenders listed Wayside Farms as their nursing home. In Cleveland, four sex offenders called University Manor on Ambleside their home.
That was news to a young resident there.
"I should know," said the woman, who is confined to a wheelchair. "I'm a female and can't do anything."
One of the sex offenders in this facility sexually attacked a resident in another nursing home before moving into this one.
We tried, in person, to talk to administrators of University Manor and Rudwick Manor, a nursing home in East Cleveland that houses three sex offenders, but we were told to leave. One of the three offenders at Rudwick Manor had committed a sexual crime against his home health care worker before he moved in to this facility.
We left phone messages for the administrators, as well as for the administrators of the Wayside Manor and Good Samaritan nursing homes but received no return calls.
Sondra Miller, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, points to the fact that 75 percent of sex crimes against people older than 65 occur in nursing homes.
She knows of one couple that was married for 40 years when the husband had to put his severely disabled wife into a nursing home. A few months later, she was sexually attacked by a fellow resident. Her husband was devastated and guilt-ridden -- and neither he nor his wife had any idea she was at risk.
"I'm very concerned, because we know sexual predators prey on people they perceive as most vulnerable," Miller says, noting that sexual offenders are often repeat offenders.
Debora Smith's job is to care for those who are vulnerable -- she is a state-tested nurses' aide. It is the people in her profession who provide much of the hands-on care in nursing homes.
Until several weeks ago, she worked at University Manor -- and was never notified that any sexual offenders lived there at the time.
She and other employees should have been told, she says: "So people can be aware of who they're dealing with and know how to approach them."
Some families say they want and need to know if a sex offender lives in the home where their loved one does.
As Romolo DeBottis points out, "It's a disease that never goes away."
And his wife adds, "They'll always have that urge."
Ohio Rep. Tom Letson, who lives in Warren, is the co-sponsor of a bill that would change the law so that residents of long-term care facilities are notified of offenders in their midst.
He was spurred to the legislation because he and his family live two doors away from a nursing home. While they got a postcard telling them a sexual offender had moved in there, no one working or living at the nursing home was notified.
One of the employees there told him, "You got the notice but the people living down the hall from him didn't."
Letson put it this way: "The people who live in the building have the same right to know as the people who live in a house 40 feet away."
He said he is hopeful that his colleagues will vote for the bill's passage. Similar legislation has passed the House before, but not the Ohio Senate.