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Retirement center launches investigation after resident is found dead nearby

CLEARWATER — The retirement home from which an 85-year-old woman disappeared before she was found dead in nearby woods Monday is investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, officials said Tuesday.

Lydia Jermann, who had mild dementia, was last seen asleep in her bed in an apartment at the seven-story Highland Terrace Retirement Center about 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Workers realized she was gone sometime around 8 a.m., according to Clearwater police, but she was not reported missing until just before 2 p.m. Monday.

It was unclear why it took until then for workers to report Jermann missing, but an internal investigation was under way at Highland Terrace Tuesday.

"We are working with the staff and residents of the facility to determine all aspects of this," facility spokesman Tom Groesbeck said. "Our internal investigation is ongoing as well as our work with local law enforcement."

Jermann had been a resident at Highland Terrace for more than two years, Groesbeck said.

The facility is not equipped with an Alzheimer's or dementia unit and allows residents to come and go as they please, which Jermann often did. Groesbeck was not able to say Tuesday whether she lived in her apartment alone or had a roommate.

"Residents are asked to sign in and out as they leave in case of an emergency," Groesbeck said. "However, we respect the rights of our residents to live their lives."

Police noted Jermann usually signed out before leaving the building at 1520 Jeffords St., but there was no record of her having left Monday morning. She did not have access to a car and used a walker to get around.

Police were out in full force Monday afternoon searching for Jermann, using a sheriff's helicopter and volunteers. A detective found her body around 4:30 p.m. at a creek near 1550 Lotus Path — just east of the Clearwater YMCA and less than half a mile from her Highland Terrace apartment.

Police declined to comment on Jermann's cause of death pending an autopsy by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.

Highland Terrace is in good standing with the state and has no previously reported problems similar to this case, according to reports.

In 2006 a man reported missing from the nearby Highland Pines nursing home was found dead two weeks later on the roof of Highland Terrace.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155.

Retirement center launches investigation after resident is found dead nearby 06/12/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 11:04pm]

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