Muskegon County woman charged with abusing veteran at the Home for Veterans

Former vets home employee charged with abuse

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH - A woman who was fired from her job at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last March for allegedly abusing a veteran with dementia is now facing a criminal charge of fourth degree vulnerable adult abuse for her actions.

The Kent County Prosecutor's office originally denied a charge against 56-year old Laurie Botbyl in April due to a lack of medical information regarding the veteran's injuries. To charge a person with vulnerable adult abuse, a prosecutor must show documentation of injuries, something that wasn't obtained by the prosecutor's office earlier this year. The 13 Watchdog team brought the above video to the attention of the prosecutor's office.

"Under the (2016) statute, if there's no injury we don't have vulnerable abuse charges," Becker said.

Documents the 13 Watchdog team independently obtained in the fall of 2016 show Botbyl rolled an 83-year old veteran's wheelchair approximately ten feet into a desk injuring his leg. The state reports we obtained showed the veteran sustained possible bruises and a "skin tear" or "laceration." The surfacing of that information led the prosecutor to change his mind about the case.

"It was not brought to us, so we are definitely taking a second look at this and a very hard look at the video and medical evidence," Becker said.

"I am heartbroken by the footage released today of a caregiver abusing an 83-year-old patient at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, and I am gratified to hear that charges have been filed against the person who committed such a thoughtless act," Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).

The army veteran who was involved in the incident is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and his family tells us he was, at the time, in "failing health."

Botbyl's charge is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of a year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.

The news of the criminal charge comes one day before a major 13 Watchdog investigation will air exposing what happened in this case.

Coming up on Thursday at 11, we'll have the full story. Our investigative team obtained video of the incident, spoke with the victim's family, and interviewed the suspect in this case, Laurie Botbyl.

UPDATED

Gov. Rick Snyder's office released a statement about our investigation:

“The Governor is deeply troubled by these charges. Michigan’s veterans deserve the utmost respect for all that they’ve sacrificed for our state and nation, and our veterans homes should be safe institutions that deliver the highest levels of care. This administration supports the efforts underway to thoroughly investigate the incident.”

Leaders at the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency released a statement to the 13 Watchdog team about our investigation and the criminal charge that was file against the former worker.

Director James Redford wrote: “The Michigan Veteran Health System/Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has zero tolerance for careless and deliberate actions that endanger the veterans we are trusted to care for in our state homes. We support the actions of the Kent County prosecutors to thoroughly investigate the incident on March 27, 2016 and the decision to issue charges. The safety of our Members is our top priority and while incidents of this nature are rare, there is no place in our workforce for anyone who does not value or respect the veterans we have the privilege to serve.”

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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