Home aide sentenced over man’s neglect

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A health care aide at the now-shuttered Warner’s Home for the Aged in Altoona was sentenced Thursday to 30 days to 24 months less one day in the Blair County Prison because of neglect that led to an 80-year-old man’s death.

Diana L. Frye, 62, is the second Warner’s Home employee who will do time in jail because of the death of Kenneth “Slim” McGuire, 80, a veteran of the Korean War and a resident of Warner’s for nearly five years before his death.

What unfolded in the courtroom of Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva Thursday afternoon was a story of tragedy, not only for McGuire but also for Frye, whose prison sentence was delayed until Aug. 19 because her son is on his death bed.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Hartye called McGuire’s death on Nov. 17, 2011, a tragedy, and said Frye was “overwhelmed” by the care that McGuire needed.

He said she “didn’t feel qualified to give Mr. McGuire the level of care he required.”

But, he said to Kopriva, Frye accepted responsibility for what occurred.

Frye said she was sorry she didn’t do more to help McGuire who suffered from sores on his arms, legs, buttocks and other areas of his body.

The forensic pathologist who examined McGuire upon his death, Dr. Harry Kamerow, said the older man suffered from “a state of ill health, malnutrition and wasting.”

His summary of McGuire’s suffering was included in a statewide grand jury report that eventually recommended neglect charges against Sherry Warner, 65, the owner of the home, Frye and another aide, Marjory J. Koch, 45, of Altoona.

Koch will be sentenced in July, and according to Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather Albright, the AG’s office will not oppose a sentence of probation for her.

Albright told the judge that Koch cooperated with the investigation into McGuire’s death and testified before the statewide grand jury.

The deputy attorney general said Frye in her statement about the case in a presentence report only went “so far” in accepting responsibility.

Albright said in other statements Frye admitted that at night she would look into the room where McGuire slept, but she would not check to see if he was wet or in need of care.

Frye told the judge, “I am sorry I didn’t do more than I did.”

She said she was hoping she did her best, and then she said, “I did try. … I

wasn’t trying hard enough.”

She turned to Theresa Strunk, McGuire’s daughter, and said she was sorry.

“I didn’t want it to happen,” she said.

To Judge Kopriva, what occurred to McGuire represented “an extremely serious case. A death occurred.”

She said that she had to look at the case of Warner, the owner of the home, sentenced two months ago by Judge Daniel J. Millliron to a minimum of three months in jail, as a guide in imposing sentence on Frye.

The judge said that people have to decide if they want to be whistleblowers when they see something that is not right, and she said “you are expected to have your own conscience.”

Then the judge acknowledged Frye was going through a difficult time in her own life, with the impending death of her son.

In addition to imposing a short prison sentence, Kopriva ordered Frye to pay a $500 fine.

She barred Frye from any further employment in the health care field and said she could not have contact with the victims.

Strunk, McGuire’s daughter, said the death had an effect on her. She said she didn’t know how much time her dad had left, but she said the tragic nature of the death could have been prevented “if they would have done their job properly.”

She lamented that she will never again be able to tell her father how much she loved him.

“They took the one I loved, and that was my daddy,” she said.