Metro-East News

Woman in wheelchair found dead at stairway in Belleville nursing home

The St. Clair County Coroner's Office is investigating the death of a woman at a Belleville nursing home.

Juanita Simmons, whose age was unavailable, was found in her wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Midwest Rehab and Respiratory in Belleville on Thursday morning, said Coroner Rick Stone.

"We are investigating the death as accidental," Stone said.

Deputy Coroner Danny Haskenhof said the office was investigating the death as a result of a fall at the home.

An autopsy was to be performed on Friday afternoon to determine the cause and manner of Simmons’ death.

Midwest Rehab and Respiratory is located at 727 N. 17th St. in Belleville. Christy Utterback, vice president of operations for Integrity Communities, which operates Midwest Rehab, declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.

The facility is the former Calvin Johnson Nursing Home.

St. Clair County prosecutors charged a former Midwest Rehab nurse, Nicole Banuelos, 41, with diverting narcotics from patients after she fell asleep at a medication cart. She also was charged with failing to feed a patient and failing to give another patient medication. She was fired from the facility in March 2014. Banuelos pleaded guilty to the neglect and drug charges. She is currently on probation.

In Jan. 2012, Aubrey Giles, 77, who suffered from dementia, wandered away from the facility. Giles’ body was found in a nearby creek bed the morning after he was reported missing. He died of hypothermia. In a lawsuit filed by Giles’ children, they claimed the facility waited more than five hours to contact police after discovering Giles missing.

Six weeks later, Joseph E. Childs, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, also left the nursing home unattended, but was later found at the Flying J truck stop in Alorton. State inspectors were also called to the facility when a resident overdosed on Xanax, but the facility was not cited because it did not supply the drugs to the patient, who survived.

In 2012, the state recommended the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services fine Midwest Rehab $30,5000 for failing to comply with nursing home regulations.

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