Port Richey police want to know why an assisted living facility didn't report the beating and death of the cancer patient until hours after each occurred.
Soon after William Gordon took a brutal pounding from a neighbor last month at his assisted living home, police say, the staff there knew about it.
It was 2 a.m. July 28 when the neighbor choked, dragged and punched the feeble, cancer-stricken Gordon in a fit of anger, say Port Richey police. At 9 a.m., a nurse pronounced 62-year-old Gordon dead.
Although the medical examiner has ruled Gordon died of cancer, rather than the beating, police are investigating whether the Gulfcoast Manor assisted living center broke the law in not promptly reporting the attack or death.
Police say they didn't learn of the attack until after 11 a.m. _ after a hospice employee called to report the death.
Said Port Richey Police Sgt. William Sager on Monday: "At this point there's two key things that we're looking at _ the time the battery occurred and why that wasn't reported as an abuse case, and the time of his death, why that wasn't immediately reported."
Wendy Hoy, spokeswoman for the assisted living facility, on Tuesday acknowledged there was confusion over who should notify police after the beating.
Because Gordon was a hospice patient in the final stages of terminal illness, Hoy said, staff at the assisted living facility thought hospice employees called in that morning to help Gordon would contact police. The precise protocol governing the situation, she said, was unclear.
"Given that that was a very unique circumstance, I think the protocol was a little bit in question," Hoy said.
It has since been clarified, she said, so "anytime there is a physical altercation between residents, we will call the police immediately."
Hoy said Katie Meyer, executive director of the Pine Hill Road assisted living home, contacted an investigator with the Department of Children and Families about 9:30 on the morning of Gordon's death, and the investigator came to the home that morning.
Gulfcoast also faxed notification to the department's abuse hotline about the same time, Hoy said.
The Department of Children and Families could not confirm that version of events.
DCF spokeswoman Brenda Porter said the department first learned of Gordon's case on their abuse hotline on the afternoon of his death. Porter said the law forbids her from revealing who placed the call, and the sensitivity of the case forbids her from discussing the details.
The law requires so-called mandated reporters, such as assisted living facilities, to promptly report cases of suspected abuse or neglect to the DCF abuse hotline, Porter said.
While state and local investigators continue to work the case, Gordon's accused attacker and former neighbor at the assisted living facility, Jason Nierenberg, 26, remains in custody at county jail in Land O'Lakes on a charge of felony battery. He is being held on $50,000 bail.
_ Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
_ Staff writer Christopher Goffard is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6236. His e-mail address is goffardsptimes.com.