Defense counters elder abuse allegations.

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A caretaker took the witness stand Thursday in an elder neglect trial to say that sores resulting from the alleged neglect were not apparent when the patient was under the care of Norma and Michael Childers.

Caretaker Cecilia Ruiz said efforts were made to cure sores that had opened on the back of 78-year-old Camille Catalfano before she was taken to a hospital.

On Thursday afternoon, defense attorney Bill Maddox opened the defense's case by saying he intends to prove that the Childerses, former owners of Nevada Cares Inc., had an impeccable record of more than 500 patients in 13 years without complaints.

He said bed sores and mold on the gums of Catalfano, who resided at Nevada Cares from September 1997 to February 1998, were not the fault of the couple or the facility, but rather a natural consequence of aging.

"The harsh reality just before we get laid back in that closet is sometimes horrible," he told the jury. "I don't blame anybody. I don't think you should blame anybody."

The Childerses were charged with felony and misdemeanor elder abuse after the state reviewed medical records of Catalfano's condition. The state is alleging that the Childerses, through the operation of the assisted living facility, should have known that Catalfano's health was deteriorating to the point where she needed outside medical attention.

Since Monday, Deputy Attorney General Mark Kemberling presented expert testimony and evidence to support theories of Catalfano's mistreatment.

Francis Berry, Catalfano's daughter, testified Thursday that she was also seeking civil damages against the Childerses. She said despite visiting her mother often, she was not aware of her problems.

"She was like a little lamb," she said, describing her mother's transition from being outspoken to being passive. "She was so docile and so lethargic."

Tuesday's testimony included a geriatric specialist from Reno who testified that photographs of Catalfano show bed sores that had progressed severely over the time she was under the Childerses' care.

Maddox said he intends to introduce expert testimony that proves that bed sores on rare occasions reach that level of severity in 24 to 48 hours. If the jury is convinced the sores could have developed in that short duration, it may cast a reasonable doubt on the state's charge.

"It's not enough that (the state) wants you to blame the Childerses, but they want you to criminally blame them." he said. "These facilities are put in a position where they are damned if they do, damned if they don't."

Maddox also presented witness Doris Kerkla, whose 90-year-old mother resided at Nevada Cares during the same time as Catalfano.

"When we took her to Nevada Cares, we knew it was the right place because it was like she was home," she said. "We were very comfortable with her being there."

The Childerses pleaded not guilty in October to felony and misdemeanor charges of elder neglect. If convicted they face up to 7 years in prison and fines. Witness testimony continues today.


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