Three former CNAs who admitted spraying two Appalachian Christian Village nursing home patients with water to agitate them were denied judicial diversion, but won’t serve any jail time.
A fourth woman was granted diversion because she didn’t participate in the abuse. She was charged because even though she didn’t participate, she saw the abuse on one occasion and didn’t report it.
Rebecca Blevins, 39; Jessica Ketterman, 22; and Jennifer Ketterman, 20, all of Elizabethton, pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of a dependent adult. Blevins was not eligible for diversion due to previous bad check convictions. At that same hearing, Amanda Adolphi, 33, Gray, pleaded guilty to failure to report the abuse.
In the plea agreements, the women were each given an 11 month, 29 day sentence, which will be served on probation. Adolphi was the only one granted diversion. After her year of probation, the conviction can be erased from her record.
A fifth woman, Bonita Scott, 51, Chuckey, was also charged in the incident, but she pleaded guilty to her case shortly after being charged.
“This case tears me up,” said Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. “We have over here four, probably very nice people, who have been contributing members of society. It’s inscrutable.”
Blackwood said he has, for years, tried to answer the question of where evil exists.
“This was evil — evil in the hearts of good people. That’s disturbing. Does that mean evil lurks in all of our hearts?” he asked.
Blackwood said the case isn’t “horrific” in the sense that someone died as a result, but “it’s a total disregard for the dignity of a human being.”
All the women were certified nursing assistants at Appalachian Christian Village nursing home when the incidents occurred in December 2011 and January 2012.
The women were charged after officials at the nursing home discovered patients were sprayed with water by Blevins and both Kettermans. Adolphi and Scott knew about the abuse but allegedly didn’t report it. Scott pleaded guilty to failure to report while the cases were still in Washington County Sessions Court.
The allegations also included the CNAs taking photos of patients’ bare buttocks and breasts, according to reports from the investigation. According to information released after the women’s arrests, Blevins and the Kettermans worked the night shift together on the second floor and began the abuse in December because they thought the patients’ reactions “would be comical.”
They also apparently took photos and videos of the incidents and showed those to other people.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent T.J. Battle testified the women could give no reason for their actions.
Aldophi also testified during the hearing and said she and the other women were sitting at a table doing paperwork on a December night shift when Blevins announced they should go agitate one of the elderly victims, and said she was going to spray water on the woman.
Aldophi said she went along and saw “water shoot from the bathroom” but didn’t see who did it. She also testified she knew what the women did was wrong but had no explanation of why she didn’t report it.
Aldophi still works in health care as a private care nurse, she said.
Brenda McKinnis, the daughter of one victim, testified her mother was in the nursing home because she had fallen while living in the assisted living portion of Appalachian Christian Village. The woman went to the nursing home for additional care and to get her medications regulated and help her get back on her feet.
She said the abuse occurred within a week of her mother going to the nursing home.
“With the continuing torture came increased agitation, which resulted in an increase in her medication, leaving her heavily sedated and unable to participate in therapy. Within six weeks mom could no longer walk even in therapy, she had trouble talking and could no longer feed herself,” McKinnis testified.
She said her mother “repeatedly asked what she had done wrong to be put in this facility.”
The abuse cost the nursing home a period of suspension of new admissions and a one-time civil penalty of $3,000 assessed by the Tennessee Department of Health, which regulates nursing homes and assisted living centers.
That suspension was lifted Feb. 22, 2012, after the Department of Health determined deficiencies at the nursing home had been corrected. The suspension was based on a federal surveyors’ report that included interviews with ACV employees, reviews of time cards, video surveillance, medical records and other documents.