Fifteen people have been arrested so far in the neglect and abuse of residents at Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce, including the owner of the facility.

Donna Wright, 58, was booked into the Jackson County Jail Tuesday evening on charges of abuse and neglect of the elderly residents of the home.

Others arrested and booked into the Jackson County Jail Tuesday afternoon were:

•Judy Nell Baird, 409 Heritage Hills, Commerce.

•Brittany Tyronda Rollins.

•Danny Sue Wingfield.

•Christa Lucinda Pittman.

•Myra Malinda Kitchens.

•Deborah Nation.

•Kenyonna Vendresha Pittman.

•Shirley Jean James, 248 Cherity Road, Homer.

•Lonnie Weldon Strickland, 44 Woodbine Street, Commerce.

•Stella Louise Strickland, 105 Bellview Homes, Commerce.

•Susan Joe Martin, 250 Railroad Street, Jefferson.

•Mary Crystal Elrod.

•Marquese Chavev.

•Jonathon Lee Elrod.

The charges include: abuse of disabled adult, failure to report abuse, neglect or disabled person, neglect of disabled adult, cruelty to adult over age 65.

A search warrant was executed Tuesday morning at Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce 200 Bolton Drive, Commerce, following a three-month investigation into the facility stemming from allegations of abuse and neglect of Alzheimer’s patients staying at the facility. Warrants for the arrests of 21 former and present employees have been issued.

Former and present employees have been interviewed and provided detailed information concerning abuse and neglect of patients at the facility. Information obtained through the investigation indicated that patients were restrained with bed sheets and subjected to inhumane and undignified conditions to include “double diapering,” which is a practice whereby multiple diapers were placed on the patients at once to keep the staff from changing soiled diapers as often. There were accounts of physical abuse, such as staff members striking patients and throwing water on them.

On April 2, the GBI was requested by the Commerce Police Department to conduct an investigation into the Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce in reference to allegations of abuse and neglect.

There are over 70 charges including Cruelty to a Person 65 Years of Age or Older; and Abuse, Neglect, Financial Exploitation and Failure to Report which are charges under the Protection of Disabled Adults and Elderly Persons statute.

During the investigation, the GBI learned patients were also being cared for by people with prior felony convictions ranging from voluntary manslaughter to drug charges to identify theft. It is against state regulations to have convicted felons working in a personal care facility. There were also unauthorized personnel administering medications to the patients and medication prescribed to the patients were found to be missing or unaccounted for during an audit of the facility in May of 2013.

Numerous agencies have assisted with the investigation: the Commerce Police Department, The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Department of Human Services Forensic Special Investigations, the Georgia Department of Revenue, the Georgia Healthcare Facility Regulation Division, the Georgia Department of Aging, Adult Protective Services, the Athens Community Council on Aging, U.S. Social Security Administration, and the Jackson County Emergency Medical Services.

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