Plea deal reached for SNF nurse charged with reckless homicide in resident death

A plea deal has been reached for a former nursing home nurse charged with reckless homicide in the 2013 death of a resident.

Kathy Hess pleaded guilty on Monday to one charge of neglect of a dependent. She also was originally charged with battery in the death of an endangered adult, neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and reckless homicide, but those charges were dismissed by Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard as part of the plea deal.

Hess was charged after accidentally fracturing a vertebra in the back of 77-year-old Dionne Scalf, a resident at Woodland Hills Care Center in Lawrenceburg, IN. While escorting Scalf to the bathroom, Hess was accused of shaking Scalff off of her walker for moving too slow, which caused the resident to break her vertebra.

Scalf's death was nearly ruled to be of natural causes. But a witness told a local detective during a Christmas party that she had seen Hess handling Scalf roughly at the facility. Scalf's body was taken for an autopsy just before it was slated for cremation, according to local reports. The autopsy attributed Scalf's death to physical abuse.

Hess received a three-year sentence on Monday, but won't have to spend any additional time behind bars, as she's already served the past two years in jail and later house arrest.

“We didn't see any advantage to insisting on any sort of a prison sentence. It seems she's been punished enough for her actions,” Negangard told a local radio station. “By the accounts of many, she had been a good nurse at the nursing home. It was clear on this day that she was not acting appropriately and she lost her cool.”

Hess told the radio station she had a good record in her 40-year nursing career, including 28 years at Woodland Hills, with only one mark for a minor medication error on her record. She will no longer be able to work as a nurse.

Scalf's family is satisfied with the result of Hess' case, Negangard said.