Editor’s note: This story was originally published Jan. 17, 2012
Authorities found the body of 75-year-old Aubrey Giles on Monday in a creek next to 17th Street near West H Street — not far from where the elderly man was reported missing, Police Chief Bill Clay said.
When officers arrived at the creek at 10:47 a.m., they found the creek to be covered in ice and Giles’ body partially submerged in the creek.
An autopsy conducted Monday afternoon found that Giles died of hypothermia, St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said. No foul play was involved, he said.
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“Just a tragedy,” Stone said.
Giles, a patient at Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care, was reported missing Saturday night. The nursing home is at 727 N. 17th St., about a block from where Giles was found in the creek. The creek runs through heavy woods and thick brush and passes directly behind Midwest’s property.
Police received a call from the Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care facility around 7:30 p.m. and police immediately launched a search for Giles.
“They indicated they checked their facility prior to contacting us,” Belleville police detective Mark Heffernan said. “We are not sure of the exact amount of time, but there was some time that had elapsed between the time he was discovered missing and the time they called us.”
Giles left the facility some time Saturday afternoon, Stone said. Based on the autopsy, Giles likely died several hours after he disappeared.
Stone said he could not provide further details about the time of disappearance and the time when Giles was actually reported missing.
Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care regional director of operations Steve Feigenbaum refused to answer questions about Giles’ death.
“We pass along our condolences to the family and we are conducting our own internal investigation,” he said.
The coroner’s office was at the scene by 11:45 a.m. Monday. Firefighters were carrying a rescue basket toward the creek and emerged with a body by 12:10 p.m. Giles was pronounced dead by deputy coroner Preston Becker at 12:05 p.m.
Emergency workers and a helicopter from St. Louis County spent Saturday night looking for Giles, who suffered from dementia and heart disease. He was wearing only a maroon shirt, gray sweatpants and slippers when he left the facility, so emergency workers were worried about his being out in the freezing weather.
The Belleville Police Patrol Division began the search for Giles. Numerous officers, a K-9 Unit, and St. Louis County Air Unit with a thermal imaging device responded to attempt to locate Giles.
Based on where and how Giles was located, police detectives believe that the air unit would not have been able to detect him.
Detectives broadened the search for Giles to other areas, however those leads did not assist in locating the missing man. Officers then returned to search for Giles near the Midwest rehab center, and located Giles’ body Monday morning.
Belleville police on Saturday evening sent out a phone alert about Giles, including where he went missing from, the time he went missing, his medical concerns, a description of him, what he was wearing when he was last seen and the Belleville police phone number should anyone see Giles.
The Hyper-Reach program used by the Police Department and the city is similar to a reverse 911 system to deliver weather alerts and other emergency information. Everyone living in the area from which Giles went missing should have received a phone message from police about Giles, Heffernan said. Residents who do not have a home phone must register their cellular phone number to be part of the Hyper-Reach alert program. Those with a landline home phone are already registered.
“We thought it would be another tool to reach out to the community and hopefully someone would be out and see him in their neighborhood and give us a call,” Heffernan said. The police did receive one call about a potential sighting, but further investigation showed it was not Giles.
In 2009, Illinois passed a law — the Endangered Missing Person Advisory Program, also known as the National Silver Alert program — designed to help locate missing and endangered senior citizens. Under the program, police agencies send out alerts when senior citizens or high-risk adults with disabilities go missing. The program is similar to the Amber Alert program that’s used when children are believed to have been abducted and in danger.
Between August 2010 and October 2011, health inspectors cited Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care for 23 deficiencies, a total almost three times the national and Illinois average for nursing homes, according to a federal government database of Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes. Midwest received a below average rating for health inspections, and an average overall rating, which combines the facility’s ratings for health inspections, staffing and quality measures.
All the health deficiencies, except for one, resulted in minimal harm or did not result in harm. The only case in which actual harm was found was when the nursing home was cited for failing to provide proper treatment to prevent new bed sores or heal existing bed sores.
Three separate times inspectors found that Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care failed to “immediately tell the resident, doctor, and a family member if: the resident is injured, there is a major change in resident’s physical/mental health, there is a need to alter treatment significantly, or the resident must be transferred or discharged.”
Midwest has not been penalized for any deficiencies in the last three years, according to the database.
Giles’ family declined to comment for this story. Funeral arrangements remain pending.
Reporter Kevin Bersett contributed information to this story.