Short-staffing a core claim in trial concerning resident's death, alleged cover-up

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An administrator accused of short-staffing her nursing facility and then allegedly covering up circumstances of an Alzheimer's resident's death has been ordered to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, and other charges. The judge's ruling came after a five-day hearing that included testimony from 19 witnesses.

Pennsylvania prosecutors claim that Martha Fenchak-Bell, the operator of the now-defunct Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in suburban Pittsburgh, acted to deceive authorities after an 88-year-old resident wandered outside and died in 2001. Short staffing contributed to the conditions, authorities claim.

Investigators think the resident walked out a door that had been propped open or had an alarm deactivated so employees cold go outside and smoke. After the resident's body was discovered outside, authorities claim, the administrator ordered it be moved inside and that medical records be altered to make it look the resident died in her sleep.

According to a local newspaper, the administrator also faces charges of theft in connection with $51,000 in checks she withdrew from the home's payroll account.