3 nursing-home staffers charged in death of WWII veteran

James Dempsey, 89, died in 2014 after repeatedly yelling for help.

ByABC News
February 22, 2018, 7:01 PM

— -- Three staff members at a Georgia senior-care facility have been indicted on charges that their actions not only caused the death of a resident in their care, but that they also tried to cover up his death.

On Tuesday, almost four years to the day that James Dempsey, 89, of Woodstock, Georgia, died, former nurses Wanda Nuckles and Loyce Pickquet Agyeman as well as aide Mable L. Turner were charged in connection with his 2014 death.

According to police records, in January 2014, Dempsey, a World War II Navy veteran, entered the Northeast Atlanta Rehabilitation Center in Brookhaven, Georgia. His family told Brookhaven police that he had been having liver problems and was undergoing dialysis treatment at the center.

Relatives told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in 2015 that when he expressed concerns about staying at the center overnight, they installed a hidden camera in his room.

After Dempsey's death, his family took the camera home and said they felt "shock" when they watched footage from that day.

"Video surveillance shows the patient suffering in respiratory distress and repeatedly calling out for help. Soon after his distress calls, the victim became unresponsive. The indictment alleges the Defendants, in varying degrees, failed to provide timely and necessary medical assistance, ultimately resulting in Mr. Dempsey's death," the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said in a news release Wednesday.

The District Attorney's Office said video surveillance of the Feb. 27, 2014 incident was made public in November 2017, after the family filed a civil lawsuit against the center, alleging "wrongful death" and "negligence." The civil suit was settled but the footage prompted a joint investigation between the DA's office and law enforcement.

In the video revealed during a deposition in the civil suit, Dempsey can be seen lying in his hospital bed, gasping for air and calling for help six times.

According to the indictment, on Feb. 27, 2014, Agyeman "failed to call 911" when Dempsey complained about his heart, despite medical instructions in his chart stating that he should be sent to a hospital in the event of chest pain.

It also said that Agyeman and Nuckles had "started performing two-person cardiopulmonary resuscitation approximately one hour" after he'd become unresponsive, "to create the false impression that they were trying to save James Dempsey’s life."

In a 2015 sworn deposition, Nuckles said the staff had administered CPR immediately.

Nuckles of Buford, Georgia, is charged with depriving an elder person of essential services. Turman of College Park, Georgia, faces a charge of neglect to an elder person. And, Agyeman of Snellville, Georgia, is charged with felony murder and neglect to an elder person. Each woman also faces a charge of concealing the death of another.

Grand jury warrants were issued for each woman's arrest, the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said.

Both Nuckles and Agyeman voluntarily surrendered their licenses in September 2017, according to the state board.

Nuckles told ABC News that she has no comment on what happened and that her lawyer would not allow her to say anything to the media. ABC News was not able to reach Turman or Agyeman. The company that runs the nursing home did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

None of the women have entered a plea at this time. A trial date has not been set.