Nurse's assistant pleads guilty in woman's death

August 31, 2009 3:17:39 PM PDT
A nurse's assistant entered a guilty plea Monday in connection with the death of an elderly nursing home resident who wandered out into the cold and died last February. It happened at a nursing home in suburban Itasca. Heidi Leon was sentenced to probation and is expected to be released from custody Monday night.

Relatives of Sarah Wentworth say the nursing assistant's punishment is too lenient.

The victim's daughters say they believe that Leon attempted to cover up the way their mother died.

Standing up in court Monday, 24-year-old Leon pleaded guilty to criminal neglect and obstruction of justice. The former nursing assistant at the Arbor of Itasca nursing home was found to have contributed to the death of Sarah Wentworth, who wandered outside, triggering an alarm ignored by Leon, who admits she was watching television.

"A death is a death. One-hundred-eighty days is in no way payment for the death, the torture that she went through," said Cathy Wentworth Shain, daughter.

Wentworth's three daughters believe Leon is a scapegoat and not the only one responsible for their mother's death.

"They wanted us to believe she died in her bed. There were several attempts to warm her body up. They undressed her, cleaned her body up, put new clothes on her," said Wentworth.

Still, the DuPage County state's attorney says justice has been served and that the sentence is the maximum available.

"We've been very vigilant about protecting senior citizens, but under the law, this is a probational offense, and somebody without any criminal history, the law mandates probation unless we can show that protection of the public requires custody," said Joe Birkett, DuPage County state's attorney.

For her part, Leon apologized to the family Monday, saying, "I'm so sorry, she was a wonderful person. She will always be in my heart and my mind.

"There is no winner in this situation. It should have been obvious in the court that everybody is in pain," said Neil Levine, defense attorney.

Leon will be released from jail Monday. Her nursing license has been revoked as part of the sentence.

The Wentworth family is now pursuing a civil lawsuit against the nursing home, though there is no date for that to go to trial.


Load Comments