The criminal charges against a former owner of a now-shuttered group home were dismissed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday -- if only for a short time.
Assistant Lucas County prosecutors said the office plans to reindict the case against Pamela Shay, owner of a group home where two men died in 2008 because of excessive heat.
The office intends again to seek charges of involuntary manslaughter. The difference will be in the level of the felony faced.
"It would be a guaranteed loser," Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Pituch said of the originally filed case. "The facts of the case haven't changed any. The only difference is that she doesn't satisfy certain statutory definitions, specifically of caretaker."
Ms. Shay was indicted in July on two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and recklessly failing to provide for a functionally impaired person. If convicted, she faced up to 23 years in prison.
The allegations revolve around of the deaths of two men, Thomas Calhoun, 47, and John Jones, 79, in 2008, who lived at Angel Arms, the group home Ms. Shay owned. Toledo police responded to the home at 1577 Bow St., off Western Avenue, on June 9, 2008, on a report of two unresponsive males.
Mr. Calhoun was found dead in an upstairs bedroom, where authorities said the temperature read 90.5 degrees. Mr. Jones, his roommate, died the next week in the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio. His temperature was 105.5 degrees when he arrived at the hospital, the Lucas County coroner's office said at the time.
Mr. Pituch said Wednesday that Ms. Shay faced first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter charges because the underlying offense -- recklessly failing to provide for a functionally impaired person -- also was a felony. However, it was learned that Ms. Shay does not meet the caretaker definition although she was indisputably the owner of the group home, Mr. Pituch said. Because she could not be convicted of the charges the office was obliged to have the case dismissed, he said.
The office plans to return to the Lucas County grand jury within 30 days with the same facts, but this time using a misdemeanor -- patient abuse or neglect -- as an underlying offense, which would reduce the involuntary manslaughter charge to a third-degree felony.
A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison; first-degree is up to 10 years.
Ms. Shay left after the brief hearing Wednesday without comment. Her attorney, Mark Geudtner, also declined comment.
Ms. Shay originally was indicted more than two years after the men's deaths. According to the investigators then, several entities were involved in the probe, which delayed presenting it to the grand jury.
The Ohio Department of Health released a nine-page report in July, 2008, detailing the findings of an inquiry that led to the recommendation that the group home be closed. The report found that on the afternoon the men were found, Angel Arms employees -- knowing of the excessive heat -- had not taken responsibility to ensure the victims took their morning medications and drank fluids, provided them with breakfast and lunch, or checked on them until 1 p.m.
The facility presented nothing to show that the residents were monitored, the report said. The high on that day was 94 degrees.
State health department showed the home was closed Oct. 29, 2008.
Members of the victims' families were not in court Wednesday.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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