Former Longmont Nursing Home Staffer Arrested After Allegations of Abuse Arise

August 10, 2018 GMT

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 39-year-old woman on Thursday following an investigation into reported abuse at an assisted living facility in Longmont.

Michelle Lanora Chambers is charged with menacing, two counts of negligence resulting in bodily harm to an at-risk adult, two counts of third-degree assault of an at-risk adult, two counts of harassment, and five counts of caretaker neglect of an at-risk adult.

Chambers is scheduled to appear in Boulder County Court on Aug. 23 for an arraignment, when she could enter a plea. She is out of custody on a $500 personal recognizance bond.

Police began investigating Chambers, who worked at Life Care Center, 2451 Pratt St., on June 7 after Stephen DeBelle, the facility director, found an anonymous note under his door that alleged Chambers hit residents and put residents’ soiled underwear in their faces, according to an arrest affidavit.

Chambers was a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, at the facility.

“Nobody has reported this because we are all scared that Michelle will retaliate and harm us or the residents even more,” the note stated. “I am reaching out to you anonymously because I am also afraid for my life.”

According to the affidavit, DeBelle said they discovered a prior incident of abuse in an internal investigation, in which Chambers yelled and swore at a resident who accidentally struck Chambers in the face during a lift assist. Chambers also punched her palm in front of the resident’s face in a threatening way, the affidavit states.

Chambers was suspended following the internal investigation and terminated soon after, DeBelle said Friday.

In an emailed statement DeBelle said such allegations are taken very seriously.

“We continue to work with local authorities and have also reported this individual to the Board of Nursing,” the statement says. ”... Life Care Center of Longmont remains focused on providing quality care to our patients and residents.”

Through interviews with other employees, Longmont police learned Chambers’ fellow CNAs allegedly witnessed her rub a resident’s feces on the resident’s face, stick residents’ soiled underwear in or on their faces, yell and swear at residents and threaten them, according to the affidavit.

A number of the CNAs, and some nurses, were intimidated by Chambers, according to the affidavit, although one told police she didn’t feel intimidated and some said they hadn’t seen evidence of abuse. However, some were afraid there was truth to a rumor that she kept a gun in her car.

A friend of Chambers who also worked at the facility, though her position isn’t clear in the affidavit, said that while Chambers talked about getting a concealed carry permit, she didn’t keep a weapon in her car. She also told police the allegations surprised her, according to the affidavit.

Multiple CNAs told police Chambers broke some facility policies. According to the affidavit, she would “double brief” residents so it was easier to change them later, and elevate residents’ beds so it was easier for her to work with them, even though that increased the risk of falls.

According to the affidavit, one CNA told police that Chambers was “very profane” with residents who soiled themselves and once rubbed feces on a resident’s face.

The same CNA said that, while trying to roll a resident over in bed, Chambers pushed him so hard his knee and head struck the wall, according to the affidavit.

A different CNA told police she heard Chambers tell a resident she needed to ”(expletive) stop doing that” before taking a soiled brief and rubbing it on her face, according to the affidavit.

CNAs also heard and saw Chambers spit on residents, according to the affidavit.

A nurse and supervisor of Chambers told police that Chambers could be “hot-headed,” but that she also was “sweet and charming.”

The nurse said she was unaware of any abuse, according to the affidavit. However, she described a time when she walked into a bathroom where Chambers and another CNA were helping a resident. The resident had feces on her face and hands, and Chambers said she had done it to herself.

The nurse said she later learned Chambers had put the feces on the resident, according to the affidavit.

The nurse also said she was intimidated by Chambers, who would get in people’s faces and “scream you down,” according to the affidavit.

Other nurses who didn’t spend as much time working with Chambers described her as caring, but said she was experiencing “caregiver burnout” as she also was caring for her parents at home, according to the affidavit. When one was asked if she was shocked by the abuse allegations, she said she was “saddened” but not shocked, according to the affidavit.

Chambers declined to speak with police and deferred them to her attorney, Timothy Edstrom of the Bagley Law Firm in Longmont.

Police met with some residents who experienced the alleged abuse, but most of them were nonverbal or unable to answer questions. Each suffered from dementia.

According to court records, Chambers has no previous conviction history in Colorado.

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com