HAPEVILLE, Ga. — An assisted living facility is being sued after a resident was found with small burns marks all over her body.
Jacquelyn Stafford, 66, was staying at the Hapeville Manor Assisted Living Facility for two separate stays. The first stay on October of 2018 went without incident, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday. But, the second, from December of 2018 to early January of 2019, is where the lawsuit claims she was burned and neglected.
Travor Moore, Stafford’s son and a 5th grade teacher, takes care of her on a day to day basis. But, he left her with staff at Hapeville Manor when he needed to leave town and couldn’t take her with him.
Stafford, who has early onset Alzheimer’s dementia, was checked into the facility for a brief stay. The lawsuit claims Stafford has “no history of skin breakdown, no wounds and weighed 115 pounds.” She was able to feed herself and had a good appetite, the lawsuit says.
But, when Moore went to pick up his mother on Jan. 2, he said she had bruises on her upper right cheek and right shoulder.
"He knew something had happened very badly to his mom, not only because of those marks, but she didn't walk to him and she was shaking like she was scared," explained Moore's attorney, Evan Jones.
According to the lawsuit, Moore asked the facility’s administrator, Chey Higgins, about the wounds and was told it was from "carpet burn." Moore reportedly asked how she gotten the carpet burn scar on her cheek and was told it was from her glasses scratching her cheek.
The next day, according to the lawsuit, Moore was giving his mom a bath, when he found multiple small burns on her shoulder, legs and knuckles and took her to a hospital.
"They were able to verify these are burns marks," said Jones, who added Stafford is non-verbal. "That's what makes this case so much worse. Someone tortures her and she can't cry out."
Moore claims he confronted staff and Higgins and called police. It was then, Jones said, staff admitted the burns were from a lit cigarette.
“I call it an act of torture,” Jones charged.
According to the lawsuit, Britney Thomas was taking care of Stafford. The lawsuit alleges Thomas burned Stafford and told another employee the elderly woman was “being too much for her.” Thomas was fired after the police began investigating the burns.
In addition, a lawyer representing Stafford and Moore found Thomas had an extensive criminal history prior to being hired by Hapeville Manor. Her history shows arrests for family violence, possession of a knife, terroristic threats, cruelty to children and a felony drug charge. The lawsuit claims a background check was not completed by anyone associated with assisted living facility.
Jones said despite the criminal history, Thomas was hired by Hapeville Manor not once, but twice.
"She had been fired by the facility for stealing before and then rehired and she's in charge of these vulnerable, elderly residents like Ms. Stafford who need 24/7 hour care."
Thomas was charged with aggravated assault by Hapeville Police. Jones said they haven't heard any more about her from police and aren't sure where she is.
"That's what's quite scary, is we don't know if she is working at another facility as a care provider," Jones added.
The lawsuit lists Hapeville Manor, Anwan Wellness, LLC and Donovan Christie, M.D. as defendants. Christie is listed as the person in charge of running day to day operations and all hiring and firing staff at the facility. Anwan Wellness is her medical practice, according to Jones.Calls to Christie’s office and Hapeville Manor’s administrator have not been returned.
Stafford is back with her son, who continues to take care of her.
Jones said they are leaving the value of the lawsuit to be determined by a judge or jury.