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Granite Falls caregiver enters guilty plea in case centering on her patient's amputations

GRANITE FALLS -- A personal care attendant has pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor charges of theft of medical costs and failure to report a health condition.

Casandra Kay Sannerud, 26, entered the pleas Monday in district court in Granite Falls. Two felony theft charges and a separate criminal neglect charge were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, according to the Yellow Medicine County Attorney.

She was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $7,034.30 in restitution.

Sannerud was charged in the care of a paralyzed woman, who was also her friend.

Prosecutors charged that Sannerud's neglect and failure to report severe pressure sores was a contributing factor that led to the amputation of the legs and hips of Jennifer Jo Darville, 31, of Clarkfield.

Darville is paralyzed as the result of a July 4, 2004, all-terrain vehicle accident in Yellow Medicine County.

A WCCO television report in May 2010 led to an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.

The investigation found that Sannerud had filed one report regarding pressure sores that Darville had on her legs during a period from the fall of 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009.

Sannerud's report was signed and dated Jan. 14, 2010, after Darville had been admitted to the hospital.

She claimed in the report that she had advised Darville to make an appointment with doctors in Sioux Falls, S.D., or Willmar for two pressure sores that were not healing, but stated that Darville had not done so.

Sannerud claimed on time sheets to be working seven days, 40 to 48 hours per week, during most of the period that she served as a caregiver.

The complaint stated that a physician also believed Darville was neglecting her own health.

"The patient was never very good about her follow-up care and did not adjust her lifestyle adequately to live a safe and productive life as a paraplegic,'' the complaint quotes the physician. (She) had a "habit of hiring her friends as caregivers and then using the money provided by the state of Minnesota to buy marijuana, which they shared in quite significant quantities.''