Coroner opens probe in nursing home death

A coroner's inquiry has been opened following the death of an 85-year-old resident of a southeast suburban St. Louis nursing home. The woman was reportedly discovered deceased early on March 12, strapped to a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

Relatives of Juanita Simmons told a local newspaper they had long suspected their sister had been physically abused during her stay at Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Center in Belleville, IL. The facility has had a series of incidents involving resident-inflicted injuries, according to the newspaper, one of which reportedly left a resident with a fractured shoulder after allegedly being pulled from a wheelchair. 

The coroner said his office was notified of the death only by employees of a funeral home. The coroner added that members of his office are investigating, along with state authorities, and that they would be returning to the facility for further questioning.

Nursing home administrator Rebecca Garcia could not be reached, and previously declined comment, the newspaper said.