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By Riham Feshier, Forum Communications Co., Published May 03 2010

Detroit Lakes man sentenced for mistreating nursing home patient

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - A Detroit Lakes man was sentenced Friday in Becker County District Court for mistreatment of a nursing home patient, a gross misdemeanor.

Quantel Emiel Morris appeared before District Judge Peter Irvine who sentenced him to one year in jail with 245 days stayed and two years probation.

He must pay a total of $590 in fines and fees and serve 120 days in jail with credit for 47 days.

The former Lake Park Sunnyside Care Center nursing assistant pleaded guilty in March to stuffing a 98-year-old resident’s mouth with a sock on Jan. 4.

According to court records, when Morris was confronted he said the woman “wouldn’t quit hollering” while he was changing her. A second nursing assistant immediately reported the incident that prompted an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and the facility’s administration.

The resident, who suffers from dementia, was visibly shaken, scared and physically anxious for days, according to court records.

“She may suffer from dementia, but she still recognizes her friends and family,” the resident’s daughter, Sandra Benedict Feeney, wrote in a letter to the court. “So it would be a logical assumption that she will always have flashbacks of this traumatic crime.”

Morris’s attorney, Becker County Public Defender Nancy Bowman, asked Irvine to give Morris an extension before reporting to jail giving the fact that his wife is on bed rest and is due to have a baby in June.

She added that he now has a full-time job and would need to give his employer notification so he could have his job back after completing his sentence.

But Irvine said he received no documentation in the pre-sentencing investigation of Morris’ wife’s health situation.

Morris’s wife was present at the last hearing and he was released so he could be with her during her pregnancy at that time, Irvine said.

Otherwise, “there weren’t any special expectations for you,” he told Morris.

Irvine added, however, that he’s willing to revisit the situation if Morris’s wife were to write a letter describing her health situation. Another hearing could be scheduled based on that.

“I’m not telling you that it’s gonna make a difference, I’m telling you that we’ll revisit,” Irvine said.

Morris, who worked for Sunnyside Care Center since September of 2009, was fired following the investigation by the facility. The Minnesota Department of Health ruled in favor of the nursing home and reported that it acted appropriately to the incident.

Katie Lundmark, administrator of Sunnyside Care Center, said background checks as well as references and an interview process — to detect behavioral problems — are required before potential employees are hired.

Additionally, the administration conducts frequent training sessions in order to avoid similar instances.

“We do a lot of training with the staff to make sure that all of our staff are thoroughly educated,” Lundmark said. “In this situation our staff reacted exactly how they should have.”