Woman charged in nursing home death

March 3, 2009 3:33:29 PM PST
Charges have been made in connection with the death of an elderly nursing home resident last month. Authorities say Sarah Wentworth died after she wandered out into the freezing weather for an extended time.

Prosecutors have charged 23-year-old Heidi Leon of Bensenville with several charges of neglect and obstruction of justice. They say she lied to police about conducting a well-being check.

Sarah Wentworth wandered outside in the freezing weather wearing just her nightgown and in bare feet. She was found outside, cold to the touch and with a temperature of just 60 degrees.

Prosecutors say the nursing assistant neglected to respond to the door alarm as well as to perform well-being checks every two hours. Prosecutors say she was watching television instead. Initial reports say Leon and several employees tried to make it look like Wentworth died in her bead.

"There was some information that surfaced in media reports that, for example, Sarah was placed on a gurney, that there was evidence of oxygen being used, that she had been placed in another gown. Those are all acts that while you may think or attribute bad motives to that behavior, there is innocent explanations for them. Maybe not morally but criminally," said Joe Birkett, DuPage County state's attorney.

Burkett said Heidi Leon is the only one that will be charged in the case. Leon is in the process of either turning herself in or being picked up. It's unclear if she is officially in custody.

The nursing home, the Arbor in Itasca, is conducting its own investigation and several of its employees remain on suspension.