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Man accused in rape at Turtle Creek public housing complex had criminal record

Theresa Clift
| Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, 5:27 p.m.
James Gerald Smith
James Gerald Smith

A man who admitted to police that he sexually assaulted a mentally disabled woman living in an Allegheny County Housing Authority apartment complex will be fired from his job at a Monroeville health care and housekeeping company, the company's president told the Trib.

James Gerald Smith, 47, of Wilmerding worked for Sweet Golden Years Home Health Care 4 U LLC. A 61-year-old woman hired the company to provide housekeeping services at her apartment in John Fraser Hall in Turtle Creek.

The company, which was founded about five years ago, conducts background checks on its employees to screen for violent crimes and drug charges, said Satpal Singh, company president.

“When we checked at that time, nothing like that was there,” Singh said.

Smith was previously charged with theft and writing bad checks in January 2017 in Allegheny County, according to court records.

In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a charge of “accident involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed.” In 1998, he pleaded guilty to simple assault. Both of those charges were filed in Westmoreland County.

The woman told police the man sexually assaulted her on two occasions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 22, when he visited her apartment to provide housekeeping services, according to a criminal complaint Allegheny County Police filed Jan. 29. Police said the woman has been diagnosed with multiple mental health illnesses and receives assistance at home.

The morning after the second assault, the woman called 911 and went to Forbes Regional Hospital to be treated for bruises and pain in her legs, the complaint said. She was diagnosed with knee and ankle sprains as well as bruising, the complaint said.

The woman showed her bruises to a county detective during an interview on Jan. 26. They were still purple and blueish, the complaint said.

The woman initially told her social worker about what happened, and the social worker told the Allegheny County Housing Authority Police Department, which passed it on to county police, said Mike Vogel, chief of housing authority police department.

Smith faces charges of sexual assault, rape, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and indecent exposure. During an interview with detectives, Smith admitted to the two assaults.

Smith was taken to Allegheny County Jail on Jan. 30 and was unable to pay his $100,000 bail, according to court documents. His arraignment is scheduled for April 5.

Housing Authority officials said this was the first time such an assault has occurred in a housing authority property.

“I've been police chief since 1998 and we've never experienced something along these lines,” Vogel said. “I wish there was something on our end we could do to help.”

Frank Aggazio, housing authority executive director, agreed.

“It's very unfortunate this occurred, but it's not a housing employee or contractor,” Aggazio said. “It's not our responsibility to screen anyone that goes in to our buildings. It's impossible to keep people safe from everything.”

Aggazio said there about 3,000 residents living in housing authority properties.

Vogel said state lawmakers should consider passing legislation that would require companies that provide such services to perform background screening on all employees, similar to companies that provide services to children.

“The state should probably step in and regulate who provides services to seniors,” Vogel said.

Aggazio said he would consider whether to ban the company from being hired as a contractor by authority residents.

The company does not have any other clients in John Fraser Hall. It does have clients in other authority properties, Singh said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

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