Nursing home workers plead guilty to death

OTTAWA (AP) — Two former Ohio nursing home employees have pleaded guilty to charges in the death of a 76-year-old woman with dementia who died of hypothermia after wandering outside on a frigid January night.

The Courier reported 36-year-old Rachel Friesel and 20-year-old Destini Fenbert, both of Pandora, pleaded guilty Thursday in western Ohio’s Putnam County to felony forgery and misdemeanor gross patient neglect charges as part of a plea agreement. They were indicted on a more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter in May.

The county prosecutor has recommended they receive probation at sentencing Sept. 28.

Authorities have said Friesel and Fenbert falsified a log showing that someone had checked on Phyllis Campbell at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Jan. 7. A state investigation discovered that Campbell wandered out of Hilty Memorial Home in Pandora through a door equipped with an alarm around 12:30 a.m. Her body wasn’t found until nearly eight hours later. The overnight low was 2 degrees below zero.

A third former employee awaits trial in November on forgery and patient neglect charges.

Friesel’s attorney, Gary Smith, said Saturday his client didn’t want to risk a trial on the involuntary manslaughter charge, which could have resulted in a prison sentence had she been found guilty.

Fenbert’s attorney couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Saturday.