Caregiver mulls withdrawing plea in exposure death of elderly dementia patient

A caregiver failed to check a door alarm the night an elderly dementia patient wandered outside and died.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (WZZM) - The lawyer for a woman convicted in the exposure death of an elderly dementia patient said he was “blindsided’’ by a judge’s decision Tuesday to send her to jail for six months.

Moments after Kent County Circuit Court Judge Donald A. Johnston sentenced 21-year-old Yahira Zamora to jail and placed her on probation for three years, the judge agreed to put that decision on hold for a week.

“I think that the defense may not have been anticipating a jail sentence, although it is recommended by the probation staff,’’ Johnston said. “But I do believe the value the community places on human life requires that we impose at least some painful sanction on individuals who cause innocent human life to be forfeited.’’

Defense attorney John Beason asked that the jail time be served after Zamora completes probation, if at all. “Your honor I got blind-sided by this,’’ Beason told the court.

“I will allow the matter to be adjourned for one week,’’ the judge responded.

The delay gives Zamora time to decide if she wants to withdraw her guilty plea and take the case to trial. Second-degree vulnerable adult abuse is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Zamora, who has no criminal record, was charged following the Oct. 2016 death of 85-year-old Kathryn Brackett.

Zamora admitted that she reset an alarm on a door at the Crystal Springs Assisted Living Center that was designed to keep residents inside the Gaines Township facility. She’s accused of resetting the alarm without determining whether anyone had left the building. 

Brackett used the door to leave the building about 11 p.m. the night of Oct. 26, 2016.  She had been outside for several hours before she was found dead around 6 a.m. on Oct. 27, 2016. The overnight temperature was in the upper 30s, with rain. An autopsy determined she died of hypothermia.

A co-worker, 45-year-old Denise Filcek, was convicted of intentional inclusion of misleading or inaccurate information in a medical chart, a four-year felony. She will be sentenced later this month.

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