FARGO — A Fargo memory care employee is facing Class B felony charges of manslaughter and endangering an eligible adult after police alleged she attacked a patient who later died.
Rachel Wede Cooper, 59, was arrested Thursday, Aug. 19, on suspicion of assaulting Maple View Memory Care patient Gary Pearson at the facility on Aug. 3. Pearson died Thursday at age 78, The Fargo Police Department said this week.
Court documents alleged Cooper endangered Pearson's life by pushing him and recklessly caused his death. An incident report filed in Cooper's case on Friday details the reported attack at the facility. According to the criminal complaint:
Cooper is a nurse who was cleaning Pearson's bathroom at 12:30 a.m. Aug. 3. The two appeared to have struggled over the bathroom door, but Cooper allegedly pushed Pearson with two hands, which caused him to fall backwards, according to video obtained from Maple View.
The serious injury police say Pearson suffered was a broken hip. Pearson, who suffers "extreme dementia," was unable to remember the incident.
Maple View Director Patricia Middendrop told police Cooper wrote a statement that said she heard Pearson fall while she was cleaning the bathroom, which contradicts what video shows.
Middendrop also said staff are not supposed to move residents when they fall, though Cooper helped Pearson up, according to the video.
Cooper later told police Pearson was keeping her from getting out of the bathroom. She then acknowledged pushing him with one arm, and Pearson tripped and fell.
She then helped him into his pajamas and put him into bed, the complaint said.
Police responded around 6:15 p.m. to Maple View to investigate the assault.
Cooper is being held at the Cass County Jail. A background search revealed no criminal history
This is the first time an assault on a patient by a Maple View employee has been reported to the Fargo Police Department, according to police.
Since early 2019, two other Maple View patients died under abnormal circumstances, prompting authorities to investigate.
Maple View resident Donard Thue Jr., 84, died after being punched by another patient, Michael Lyman, at the facility on March 29, 2019. Lyman, who was 70 years old at the time, was supposed to be on 24/7 watch due to a change in medication.
Staff said, according to police reports, that they believed Lyman had gone to bed that night. Video showed Thue opening a door leading to Lyman's room before Lyman came out into a hallway.
The two were standing out of view of staff but down the hall from where employees were sitting at a table.
Thue is shown grabbing and pushing Lyman, prompting Lyman to punch Thue in the face before shoving him. One police report said Thue fell to the ground before Lyman kicked him in the head.
That's when staff ran toward the scuffle. They checked on Thue and determined he did not need to go to a hospital, according to a police report.
After being found unresponsive the next day in his bed, Thue was taken to Essentia Health, according to police. Doctors determined he was untreatable, a report said. He died in hospice on April 3, 2019.
The fight was not reported to police, and investigators found out about the death from a coroner, who was informed by a funeral home about what happened at the memory care facility.
No charges were filed since Lyman did not have a "culpable state of mind." He died July 17, 2019.
Maple View changed its policies on when to seek medical attention for patients involved in altercations.
Less than two years later, another Maple View resident died after escaping the facility. Police documents detail how Robert McKinnon, 80, walked through an unlocked gate to the facility. Police believe a lawn service company forgot to lock the latch.
McKinnon had a history of walking away from Maple View and another Fargo memory care facility, police reports said. He was allowed to walk in the fenced area behind the building, but he was not being supervised when he walked through the gate, according to one report.
After an extensive search, McKinnon's body was found Oct. 13 in an unlocked vacant office building about a block north of Maple View. He died from environmental exposure and dehydration, according to the Fargo Police Department.
The death was listed as accidental, and no charges were filed in that case.
Citing the fight involving Thue and Lyman, the North Dakota Department of Health conducted an inspection of Maple View in July 2019. No problems were reported at the facility at the time.
McKinnon's death did not trigger an inspection, with state officials saying no further investigation beyond what police did was necessary. Changes were proposed for Maple View as a result of the incident, but the Health Department declined to discuss those changes.
Maple View also declined to speak to The Forum about McKinnon's death and what changes it made to ensure patient safety.
It's unclear if this death will spark any state investigations, though the Department of Human Services can investigate incidents at memory care facilities that involve deaths.