Society

Senior Living Home Defended Rape Of 89-Year-Old: She Flirted With Caregiver

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Administrators at a Minnesota senior living home are accused of impeding a rape investigation, according to recently filed court documents.

Edgewood Vista caregiver Andrew Scott Merzwski, 30, was convicted of sexual assault on an 89-year-old patient and was sentenced to 53 months in prison in January.

During an investigation, an administrator at the Hermantown facility told a sexual-assault nurse that the elderly victim lied about being sexually assaulted. The administrator said the victim had flirted with Merzwski.

“Did she tell you that this was consensual? Did she tell you that she flirts with this boy mercilessly?” Marilyn Moore, clinical services director at the home, asked the nurse, according to court testimony.

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"I was just shocked that somebody was so blatantly putting the blame on this woman," said nurse examiner Theresa Flesvig.

While the state Department of Health found Merzwski liable, the facility wasn't held responsible in the incident.

State Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Roberta Opheim says these court documents raise new questions about what the facility could have done differently.

“The question has to be asked: Why wasn’t the facility held accountable for the neglect of care?” Opheim asked.

The Health Department said an investigation found Edgewood Vista had abuse prevention policies in place and that Merzwski had received abuse prevention training.

The elderly woman went through a great deal before her story was taken seriously.

After the incident was reported to police, Merzwski admitted to police that he had had intercourse with the woman. But the 89-year-old was still transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth where she was locked in a psychiatric ward for three days until investigators determined she was telling the truth.

“The room she was in was dark and cold … and they locked her in at night and all she had was a blanket,” Flesvig said in testimony filed with the court.

Days later, a physical exam proved she had been assaulted. Flesvig found a laceration on the woman that was the "biggest tear" she had ever seen in six years of working in the field.

Sources: StarTribune, San Antonio Express