Good Sam case gets national TV coverage

Published 10:44 am Friday, December 5, 2008

The case of alleged abuse at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea has spread to national media networks, including a segment on Thursday morning’s “Today Show” on NBC.

In what “Today” anchor Meredith Viera described as a “really disturbing story,” the show gave a background on the case, including yearbook photos of the teens, clips from Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels and an interview with Mark Anderson, the nursing home’s administrator.

It also included an interview with Wes Bledsoe, founder and president of A Perfect Cause, a watchdog group for nursing homes.

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Former Good Sam employees Brianna Broitzman and Ashton Larson face several charges in the case.

On Monday, the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office charged Broitzman, 19, and Larson, 18, each with 10 or more charges, including criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult and assault in the fifth degree.

Four juveniles were also charged with mandatory failure to report suspected abuse.

The details of the allegations surfaced after the release of the Minnesota Department of Health’s report in August that concluded four teenagers were involved in verbal, sexual and emotional abuse of 15 residents at the nursing home in Albert Lea. The residents suffered from mental degradation conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Winkels called the allegations “shocking.”

Anderson said when the alleged abuse was first reported to the nursing home administration, he “was just in disbelief. I could not believe the information that was coming forward that she shared with me was possible.”

Anderson said the teenagers would work a shift such as the 3 to 9 p.m. shift, which was a perfect job for students to have after school.

As certified nursing assistants, some of the duties they would help perform were to comb residents’ hair or help them to an activity, he said.

But the state Department of Health report alleges the teenagers were doing much more than their duties, including tormenting residents simply “for fun,” poking residents in the breasts and hitting male residents in the genital area, among other actions, the show reported.

Larson’s family issued a statement aired on the show that, “Not all of the charges are as they appear. Much of this has been distorted by the news media. My daughter was doing nothing more than performing the duties of her job.”

Bledsoe said people can verify that their loved one will be safe in a care facility by doing things such as going to the state and pulling records of investigations against the facility. They can check for sex offenders and talk to other families of residents there.

Bledsoe said some signs of abuse include scared or timid behavior, depressed withdrawn behavior, sudden changes in behavior, talking about sexual acts when they haven’t been talking about sexual acts in the past and fear of certain people or characteristics.

Family members can ask a lot of questions and then listen to their loved one, check the patient physically for abuse and use hidden cameras in those states that allow it by law, he said.

If anyone suspects abuse, they should call 911 immediately, Bledsoe said.

Other national media networks including CBS out of New York and ABC out of Los Angeles have also contacted the Tribune with questions about the case. The Associated Press, a wire service of which the Tribune is a member, has moved a story on its national wires about the case. Other AP print and broadcast members can pick up the story and publish or air it.

If you missed it, you can view the segment online: