#UPDATE BELOW (12/14/2011)
Supervisor cleared in nursing home deaths - Chicago Breaking News
By Amanda Marrazzo, Special to the Tribune
A former nursing supervisor was found not guilty today of obstruction of justice in a case that stemmed from the suspicious deaths of six residents at a Woodstock nursing home in 2006.
Penny Whitlock, 62, was charged with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice. Authorities said she ignored suspicions that a nurse was overmedicating patients with morphine, and destroyed evidence during a state police investigation.
On Tuesday, in the midst of Whitlock’s trial, McHenry County Judge Joseph Condon dismissed the neglect charges against her, saying prosecutors failed to prove she had turned a blind eye to the alleged crimes of the nurse at the now-shuttered Woodstock Residence nursing home.
Today, Condon ruled that Whitlock was not guilty on the remaining charges and told her she was free to go. He had dismissed the jury in the case Tuesday after Whitlock’s lawyers waived her right to a jury trial.
Whitlock stood stoically as Condon announced his not guilty verdict.
The judge said former coworkers of Whitlock gave conflicting statements during testimony about events that took place five years ago. He said he did not believe that Whitlock did anything improper or had “sinister” intent when she destroyed patient medication that had been kept in her office. He said he found no evidence that she sought to deceive or cover up anything.
The nurse accused of overmedicating the patients at the care center, Marty Himebaugh, is still to be tried later, and prosecutor Phil Hiscock said Himbaugh’s trial will proceed.
“We respect the court’s ruling though we may disagree to the nature of the evidence,” Hiscock said.
The nursing home now operating at the same location is run by a separate entity.
‘Angel of Death’ nurse gets probation for criminal neglect of patient
December 14, 2011
Marty Himebaugh dosed an agitated patient at a Woodstock care center with two unprescribed drugs simply to make her nursing job easier, McHenry County prosecutors said Wednesday.
“She viewed him as a problem for her and she pumped him full of medication. That type of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Assistant State’s Attorney Philip Hiscock said as he asked that Himebaugh be sent to prison.
But Himebaugh — who prosecutors said had been dubbed the “Angel of Death” by a co-worker at the nursing home where six patients died suspiciously — instead was placed on two years’ probation and fined $5,000.
She pleaded guilty in October to felony criminal neglect for giving two medications to patient Tony Hodges in 2006, even though he hadn’t been prescribed either drug.
In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped five other felony counts against Himebaugh, whose nursing license was suspended by state regulators in 2009 after a probe of patient deaths at the former Woodstock Residence nursing home where she worked.
Authorities began investigating the home in 2006 after receiving reports of six unusual patient deaths there purportedly involving overdoses of morphine, a powerful painkiller. The bodies of three former patients ultimately were exhumed and a pathologist determined one had died of a morphine overdose.
Himebaugh and her former supervisor, Penny Whitlock, were charged in 2008 in connection with their duties at the nursing home, though neither was charged with causing any patient deaths.
Whitlock was acquitted earlier this year of charges she allowed Himebaugh to overmedicate patients with morphine and tried to obstruct the investigation of the nursing home.
Judge Joseph Condon — who acquitted Whitlock — rejected a prison term for Himebaugh and instead sentenced to her probation, noting he still had “serious doubts” about the allegations levelled against both women.
When she pleaded guilty, Himebaugh admitted giving Hodges the anti-anxiety medication Ativan and another drug, Risperdal.
Hodges fell several hours later and suffered a head injury, though defense attorney Sam Amirante contended the fall couldn’t clearly be linked to the drug, which he said Himebaugh administered in an effort to calm Hodges.
“At the time, she thought it was the right thing to do,” said Amirante, who described Himebaugh as an “angel of courage, of compassion, of decency.”
Hodges’ sister left the courtroom in tears, but declined to comment on the sentence.
#Source Chicago Sun Times BY DAN ROZEK