The owner of a now-closed Altoona personal care home, Sherry Jo Warner, 65, was sentenced Friday to a minimum of six months in prison for failing to provide care to one of her residents, who died 17 months ago from many sores, malnutrition and pneumonia.
Kenneth "Slim" McGuire, 80, an Army veteran of the Korean War, died Nov. 17, 2011, at Altoona Regional after being transferred there from Warner's Home for the Aged, 1104 14th Ave., where he had resided for several years.
Warner operated the home that had 18 residents.
According to a statewide grand jury investigation, McGuire began to suffer from sores on his legs in 2011.
Despite treatment, his condition worsened over a period of several months, and he was hospitalized for the last time on Nov. 5, 2011.
Warner and two aides, Diana L. Frye, 63, and Marjory J. Koch, 45, both of Altoona, were each charged with neglect of care of a dependent person.
Warner entered a guilty plea earlier this year and came before Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron on Friday for sentencing.
Milliron was restricted in the length of sentence he could impose because of a plea agreement reached between the prosecution and defense in exchange for Warner's guilty plea.
The judge indicated he would have liked to have imposed a stiffer sentence on Warner, who received six to 12 months in the county prison and who will be barred from ever working a health care facility.
The judge said he sentenced Warner within the aggravated range of the state's sentencing guidelines, which conformed to the plea agreement.
The judge said Warner was informed at least three times about McGuire's deteriorating physical condition during the last months of his life but took no action to investigate his condition.
One of those warnings came from the Bon Secours Wound Center, which reported McGuire was in the worst condition the staff had ever seen of a personal care home patient.
"We are going to protect our elderly population, the most vulnerable in society," Milliron said.
Warner was also informed by several employees about McGuire's slow descent into poor health, but, according to testimony before the grand jury, she did not go to check on him.
Upon receiving a report from a worker about the sores McGuire was developing, Warner, the grand jury report stated, said she didn't believe the report and said it stemmed from a dispute between two employees.
Warner was fined $5,000.
"I am honored to be in this position that Blair County people put me in. What I am doing is my duty," Milliron said as he explained his decision to send Warner to jail.
When her attorney, Warren Crilly III, asked for a couple of days to prepare for prison, Milliron answered, "I'm not giving her five seconds."
A point made by Crilly was that Warner was remorseful about what happened.
Turning to McGuire's daughter, Theresa Strunk, she said, "I am so sorry for what happened to your dad. I agree," she explained, "somebody didn't do their job."
She said she and McGuire had a good relationship. He would joke with her everyday when she came to the home about his bad legs.
An examination by Dr. Harry Kamerow, the forensic pathologist who did the McGuire autopsy, reported McGuire suffered from pressure ulcers on his arms, legs, buttocks and other areas.
He also suffered from cachexia, explained in the grand jury presentment, as a "state of ill health, malnutrition and wasting."
Other doctors confirmed to the grand jury that McGuire had many other problems as well.
When it came time for McGuire's daughter to speak, she said the loss of her father "could have been prevented if they [Warner's employees] did their jobs properly."
"To lose my father the way I did isn't fair to me," Strunk said.
Her father was elderly, and he may not have lived much longer, Strunk said, but the way he died has caused her to have dreams, sleepless nights and to pose a question that constantly goes through her mind. "Why?"
"They took from me the one I loved, and that was my daddy," she said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather Albright, a 13-year veteran of the AG's office, said Friday after the sentencing that the McGuire's case was "tragic."
She requested Milliron bar Warner from employment in the health care field.
Koch is to be sentenced in June, and Frye, who cooperated with investigators, will be sentenced after that.