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Family sues Indianapolis nursing home over slaying of 80-year-old woman

The lawsuit filed by Patricia Newnum's husband and daughter accuses Homestead Healthcare Center's operator, CommuniCare Inc., of wrongful death.

INDIANAPOLIS — The family of an 80-year-old woman who was raped and murdered at an Indianapolis nursing home alleges in a lawsuit that her death was the "inevitable result" of poor staffing and "horrendous" conditions at the nursing home.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Marion County by Patricia Newnum's husband and daughter accuses Homestead Healthcare Center's operator, CommuniCare Inc., of wrongful death, pre-death loss of consortium, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit also names the home's owner, Adams County Memorial Hospital, as defendant. It alleges that Newnum's rape and murder was "the tragic culmination of constant, horrendous conditions and conduct" at the nursing home on Indianapolis' south side.

After Newnum was killed in February, another nursing home resident, Dwayne Freeman, 60, was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of rape in her killing. A coroner found Newnum died from asphyxiation due to smothering. 

Credit: WTHR
Dwayne Freeman

A ranking by Medicare listed the facility as "much below average" after a January 2020 inspection. The health inspection generated 19 citations when the average number of health citations in the U.S. is 8.1 and in Indiana it is 9.1.

RELATED: Citations, fines plagued nursing home where woman was raped, murdered

In the past three years, there have been 26 citations that came after complaints. In the last year, the lawsuit claims violations led to three fines totaling $117,334.

One of the health inspection violations came from an incident one year prior to Newnum's death, which involved a resident that died after an IV was left unmonitored in the resident's arm for more than a week.

The lawsuit claims Homestead Healthcare Center's nursing staff turnover rate was about 79%, according to the most recent government data. The lawsuit claims it was even worse among registered nurses at nearly 92% when the U.S. average is about 50%.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims: "A culture of crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, and poor treatment of residents and patients has been permitted to fester at Homestead Healthcare Center." It goes on to claim that drug abuse was so pervasive that residents were issued Narcan. The lawsuit claims: "Opioid abuse, overdoses, and marijuana use by patients were prevalent at Homestead Healthcare Center."

RELATED: Not guilty plea for man charged with murder, rape in 80-year-old woman's death at Indianapolis health care center

At the time of Newnum's death, employees reportedly found an empty bottle of alcohol and could smell alcohol on Freeman's breath. 

Freeman told police he had been in Newnum's room, but that "she was already dead" when he was there. He told investigators he passed by the victim's room and went in because he heard her asking for help, but denied having been on top of Newnum.

Eventually, court documents say Freeman finally admitted to having sex with Newnum, but said it was consensual and denied putting a pillow on her. He was later arrested and taken to the hospital for a sexual assault suspect exam.

Freeman's next pretrial conference is set for July.

A spokesperson for Homestead released the following statement to 13 Investigates: 

“We continue to be saddened for the family’s loss however it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”

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