Nurse sentenced in connection to patient's death

Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 19:14:42-05

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. -- A former nursing home employee will spend 18 months on probation after she pleaded guilty in connection with the death of a patient.

Dionne Scalf, 77, died in December 2013 at Woodland Hills Care Center after she suffered a fractured vertebra.

According to Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard, Scalf was moving slowly in a walker to the bathroom when a nurse, Kathy Hess, violently pulled her, breaking Scalf's vertebra. Hess didn't realize Scalf's back was injured when she put Scalf on the toilet, Negangard said, and she died shortly afterward.

"It was clear she was in a rush, and based upon that, made the decision that injured Dionne Scalf," Negangard said.

Scalf was almost listed as having died of natural causes; however, Negangard said a visitor saw what happened and told an officer at a family Christmas party. An autopsy revealed the broken vertebra that caused her death, he said.

"Had investigators not been on this and she had been cremated earlier, we never would have known," he said.

Hess was fired after the accusations came to light.

She pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent. She was sentenced to three years, but she was given credit for time served. In addition to the 18 months probation, Negangard said she'll never be a caregiver again.

"She had clearly done it too long and shouldn't be a nurse anymore," he said.

Hess' attorney would not allow her to comment.