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Elizabeth Township landlord may face tenant abuse charges

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Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011

The owner of a rental property in Elizabeth Township is being investigated by local police after an elderly tenant was injured in a fall from a wheelchair.

Elizabeth Township police are considering filing charges against Yough Shore Inn owner Lin Thorne, of Elizabeth Township, for allegedly abusing a 68-year-old woman after she'd fallen from a wheelchair.

Police records indicate the victim suffered a broken ankle in the fall, which occurred around 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 28. The victim told authorities that she remained on the floor until 1 p.m., when Thorne returned to the building and allegedly began assaulting her.

A police record with information from the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging Protective Services alleges Thorne became enraged at her alleged victim after the woman soiled her clothes while she was still on the floor.

Thorne is accused of yelling, grabbing the woman by the hair and ordering her to get up. Thorne also is accused of forcing the woman to clean the feces with her clothes and leaving her to sit in the wheelchair for two hours.

Thorne, who has not been charged, denies the abuse allegations.

Elizabeth Township police Chief Robert McNeilly said of the incident, “This is something the public needs to know.”

The chief said his department has been called to the home at 1403 Boston Hollow Road on other occasions for similar incidents involving older tenants and lack of supervision.

“It's been an ongoing issue for us for years,” the chief said. “In the past we've found (the home's elderly tenants) walking the streets. We've gone down there and found people in need of medical care.”

Yough Shore Inn had been licensed by the state to operate as a personal care home until August 2003. The facility now bills itself on its website as “a fun place to sleep” with “seven unique guest rooms.”

Thorne said the facility takes in people who have no other place to go.

McNeilly said the home continues to take in residents who need specialized medical attention.

Over the course of several years, McNeilly said, at least two other tenants have been removed from the building by authorities and that a third resident, Rose Marie Buxton, 58, was found dead in the basement of the home on Sept. 3, 2008.

The chief said the death was from natural causes but he believes a lack of sufficient medical attention in the facility could also have contributed to the woman's demise.

Police reports indicate that on previous visits to the facility, officers found the property to smell of urine, have lighting fixtures with exposed wiring, have hanging gutters and to be in general disrepair.

Police also reported seeing at least four dogs and a large caged bird inside the property on a previous call to the home.

In the recent matter, police said Thorne should have called 911 to report the fall, but instead contacted the victim's doctor in Washington County.

When Thorne did call for an ambulance, she reportedly contacted Ft. Cherry EMS rather than the local company, Elizabeth Township Area EMS, according to police.

Thorne said the victim did fall, but that she wasn't confined to a wheelchair. Thorne said the victim could not get up on her own because she has weight problems. The woman had lived in the home for only two weeks, according to Thorne.

Thorne said the victim has mental health issues, was not taking prescribed medications for her condition at the time of the incident and had had previous problems with incontinence.

“She didn't get hurt,” said Thorne, who denies that the victim broke an ankle. Thorne said she never pulled the woman's hair nor ordered her to use her clothes to clean up the mess.

“That's the furthest thing from the truth,” she said of the allegations.

Thorne said she contacted Ft. Cherry EMS at the recommendation of the victim's doctor, who suggested using the company to take her to Allegheny General Hospital.

She said she followed the recommendation because she didn't think the woman was seriously injured.

“I'm not stupid. I know 911 and I know an emergency,” she said.

McNeilly said his department has yet to speak with the victim, who has been transferred to a rehabilitation center.

The Elizabeth Township chief also said he is planning to contact Allegheny County police to discuss how to proceed with the investigation.

Bureau safety chief Kurt Emmerling from the county agency on aging could not confirm or deny the incident but said that if the agency were to receive such a report of abuse, it “would be treated as an urgent call” and the agency would take steps to remove the victim from the situation.

The agency on aging does try to monitor unlicensed homes, but proprietors of such facilities do not have to comply with requests for visits from the agency.

Emmerling said up to three individuals may live in a private residence without being licensed as a care home by the state.

Emmerling said anyone who suspects abuse of an elderly person can report it to a 24-hour agency hotline at 412-350-6905.

One tenant currently remains in the facility, Thorne said.



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