Sex offenders found living in area nursing homes

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WVEC.com

Posted on December 18, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 3:06 PM

One of life's more difficult decisions is choosing a nursing home for a loved one.

Does the facility offer the type of care you need?

Is it clean?

Does the staff seem caring?

These are all important questions, but have you thought to ask whether any residents are sex offenders?

Video: Sex offenders living in area nursing homes

Today, hundreds of sex offenders live in long-term care facilities across the country, including Virginia.

Some say a new state law aimed at warning you of the risk doesn't go far enough.

The stories of abuse are disturbing.

A 77-year old woman with dementia was raped in a Florida nursing home. Her attacker, 83-year old Ivey Edwards, was a known sex offender, living in the same facility.

Recently, a Government Accountability Office report identified 700 registered sex offenders living in long-term care facilities in the country, including Virginia.

State Senator Ken Stolle of Virginia Beach recently chaired a crime commission study that looked into this issue. Stolle said no incidents in Virginia raised alarm.

"The mere fact we have sex offenders in nursing homes does not mean we have a problem. It's whether they represent a threat to other patients in nursing homes," said Stolle.

But the state did take action, passing a law which Stolle says protects the privacy of residents and gives families information to make important decisions about loved ones.

Long term care facilities now must register to receive information on sex offenders living in, or near, a facility, and help residents access the sex offender registry, if they ask.

Wes Bledsoe, an advocate for greater notification laws, says the potential for problems is real.

"The bottom line is when you put predators in with the prey someone is going to get bit," said Bledsoe.

Bledsoe's grandmother was attacked in an Oklahoma nursing home. He feels Virginia's new law doesn't go far enough to protect the elderly.

Bledsoe says facilities should be required to come right out and tell families that a sex offender lives in the facility.

That's also the view of AARP.

"Our major position was that the recommendations of the crime commission did not go far enough," said Marge Bush, the director of advocacy for the area chapter of the AARP in Richmond.

Bush said the process of putting a loved one in a nursing home is very emotional, and with all of the paperwork you have to sign, you might miss the significance of being told to check the sex offender registry.

Bledsoe also said he'd like to see criminal background checks for all residents of long term care facilities. He says it's the only way to know for sure if any unregistered sex offenders, violent felons, or parolees are residents.

"Do we even know who the criminal offenders are who are living in these facilities? Most of the time we don't," said Bledsoe.

13News investigators checked the state police web site and found five sex offenders who recently registered their residence as a long-term care facility in Hampton Roads.

A sex offender convicted of attempted rape is at the Ruxton Nursing Centerin Williamsburg.

We learned a man classified as a violent sex offender convicted of abduction and aggravated sexual battery in November of 2000, recently moved from the Riverside Convalescent Center in Hampton to Consulate Healthcare in Norfolk.

We also found a 78-year old man convicted of aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties with a child 13-years ago in the same facility. He is also considered a violent offender.

A registered sex offender is listed at the Sentara Nursing Center in Virginia Beach.

And until his death just weeks ago, an 87-year old man convicted of rape and indecent liberties with a children may of 1996 spent several years at the Bay Pointe Medical and Rehab Center in Virginia Beach. He was considered by state police to be a violent sex offender.

A number of facilities refused to talk to us for our story. Riverside and Sentara did tell us residents are evaluated to make sure a facility can meet the 'medical' needs of patients, and staff is trained to recognize signs of sexual abuse.

We were also told the number of sex offenders who re-offend is lower than most people think.

"That's another one of those fairy tales that's used as justification by uninformed individuals, said Bledsoe.

At his web site, a perfectcause.org, Bledsoe lists dozens of cases he says clearly show just because someone is older and failing in health does not mean they're safe.

And that brings us back to Ivey Edwards who raped a defenseless woman in Florida nursing home.

Despite being in a wheelchair and having 59 prior arrests, he was deemed by authorities to pose no threat when he was placed in a long term care facility.

According to Bledsoe, if the state really wants to keep people safe, criminal background checks should be required for all residents. Without them, Bledsoe says, who knows if any 'unregistered' sex offenders, convicted felons, or parolees are in the facilities.

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