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Published: Saturday, 9/3/2011

Ex-group home owner gets probation over patient deaths

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Pamela Shay pleaded no contest to two counts of patient neglect because of the heat-related deaths of two of her residents in her group home, Angel Arms. The facility is now closed. Pamela Shay pleaded no contest to two counts of patient neglect because of the heat-related deaths of two of her residents in her group home, Angel Arms. The facility is now closed.
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A tearful Pamela Shay was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to probation Friday after she was found guilty of neglecting two patients who died of heat stroke while in the care of her now-shuttered group home.

Ms. Shay, 61, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of patient neglect. She was immediately sentenced to two years’ probation, including 200 hours of community service and a mental health assessment.

As part of her plea, she agreed to permanently surrender her Ohio nursing license.

“I’m sorry it happened,” Ms. Shay said of the June 9, 2008, deaths of two men living at her Angel Arms group home in South Toledo. “I cared about them. A day doesn’t go by where it hasn’t affected me.”

Ms. Shay was the owner and operator of a group home at 1577 Bow St., during the summer of 2008 when police were called to the home on a report of two unresponsive men, Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Pituch said.

Thomas Calhoun, 47, and John Jones, 79, were residents and roommates at Angel Arms, Mr. Pituch said. Both were schizophrenic and consequently took anti-psychotic medications, he added.

On the days of June 8 and 9 of 2008, Toledo was experiencing a heat wave and high temperatures reached more than 90 degrees, Mr. Pituch said.

He then noted that it was Ms. Shay’s “duty to avoid temperature extremes within the facility which may be a health hazard.”

When police arrived, Mr. Calhoun was found dead in an upstairs bedroom, where authorities said the temperature read 90.5 degrees. Mr. Jones 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, Mr. Pituch said.

Pamela Shay is in the bedroom where Thomas Calhoun was found dead. John Jones died the next week. The room temperature was 90.5. Pamela Shay is in the bedroom where Thomas Calhoun was found dead. John Jones died the next week. The room temperature was 90.5.
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The Lucas County Coroner’s Office ruled each death accidental and listed heat stroke as cause of death.

Ms. Shay’s attorney, Mark Geudtner, noted in court that there is a difference between a nursing facility and a group home. In a group home, he said, residents are often able to physically care for themselves.

The two victims, he added, did not require nursing-home care.

Mr. Geudtner additionally noted although present in the home, Ms. Shay had hired staff members who were responsible for the residents at the time of the incident.

“Pamela Shay has been and continues to be absolutely crushed by what happened,” he said, adding that she had previously given up her group home license. “I’m confident that this situation was exactly as the coroner ruled, merely accidental.”

Ms. Shay, who was visibly shaken, told Judge Zmuda that Mr. Calhoun had lived in her home for two years and that Mr. Jones had been a resident for six months.

She said it was her desire to take care of people in a home-like setting that led her to open the group home.

Judge Zmuda warned that Ms. Shay could face the maximum of 180 days of local incarceration if she violated her probation. He noted that it was the combination of medication and heat that created a “tragic perfect storm.”

A nephew of Mr. Jones was in the courtroom at the time of the sentencing. Although Mr. Pituch noted that the Jones family was not in agreement with the negotiated plea, the nephew declined to speak in court before the sentencing and declined to comment after.

Civil lawsuits were filed on behalf of the men’s families after the deaths. The cases have each concluded in out-of-court settlements.

Mr. Pituch said that the Calhoun family was not in court and agreed with the plea. He said the facts of the case, including that Ms. Shay had hired staff to look after the residents, played a part in the negotiated plea.

“This is just a tragedy,” he said. “But we held out for the surrender of her license to ensure that this type of thing would never happen again.”

Contact Erica Blake: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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