Disabled woman is pregnant following rape in care center

Published May 18, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

A severely disabled woman is more than five months pregnant after being raped at the care home where she has lived for 17 years, her mother said.

The 35-year-old resident at the Laurel Hill Cluster is severely mentally and physically disabled from cerebral palsy and can't walk, talk or turn over.

Her mother said Thursday that Laurel Hill officials told her about the pregnancy three weeks ago. She said she wants to keep the baby her daughter is carrying.

Her attorney, Steven Maher, said Friday the facility has agreed to allow the installation of a video surveillance camera in the room.

Quest Inc., a nonprofit organization, operates Laurel Hill, a 24-bed facility, and eight other group homes for the disabled in the Orlando area.

Quest spokeswoman Cindy Tucker refused to comment Friday on the allegations.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses Laurel Hill, are investigating.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Angelo Nieves said Laurel Hill administrators contacted authorities about the sexual battery on April 30.

"The facility has been very cooperative with our detectives," Nieves said. He would not say Friday whether investigators would take a DNA sample from the baby to determine the father.

According to AHCA documents, county investigators asked male Quest staffers to submit swab samples for DNA testing.

AHCA spokesman Pat Glynn said a team of investigators was at Laurel Hill Friday, and Laurel Hill's Medicaid license could be pulled unless it submitted a plan to protect residents from "immediate jeopardy."

Quest's plan was approved by the AHCA on Friday. Among the changes put in place at Laurel Hill are assigning only female staffers to the victim's care, and keeping all male staffers away from her until the criminal investigation is complete.

Glynn said AHCA would be conducting surprise investigations to determine whether the plan was in place and working.

With the number of abuse cases in nursing homes on the increase, the Legislature last year asked AHCA and the state Attorney General's Office to study the issue of surveillance cameras.

Their report, released in January, said that such cameras would likely deter abuse and neglect.

A measure that passed the Florida Senate but failed to clear the Legislature this year would have created a pilot program to install cameras to monitor the care and treatment of patients in two nursing homes for a year. It was strongly opposed by the nursing home industry.