Local News

Wake County Investigates Death Of Alzheimer's Patient Outside Care Facility

Posted January 5, 2004 7:40 a.m. EST

— According to the Wendell Police Department, 85-year-old Williard Raper, of Wendell, was struck and killed by a motor vehicle Sunday night as he walked in the eastbound lane of Wendell Boulevard.

Wake County was investigating Monday night why nobody noticed that the Alzheimer's patient -- who had been known to wander at night -- was missing.

The accident occurred at 11:35 p.m. Sunday in front of the Oliver House, an assisted living facility in which Raper lived. He was declared dead at the scene when emergency units arrived.

The driver of the 1992 Jeep that struck Raper was identified as Amanda C. Shelton, 20, of Zebulon. No charges had been filed as of noon Monday, although Wendell Police Chief J.A. Privette said an investigation into the accident was continuing.

In spite of alarms on the doors, Oliver House administrators said Raper walked out undetected.

Wake County Social Services said the facility has a clean track record when it comes to care. But an in-depth look at the facility's history shows many different owners, many different names and many problems.

"We care for our residents," said Oliver House Administrator Mahemood Rajani. "This is a very unfortunate situation."

Raper's daughter-in-law, Donna Pollard, said that -- although she never filed any formal complaints -- she was concerned about his care.

"You could just open the door and walk right in, no alarms or anything," Pollard said.

Rajani said an alarm should have sounded if Raper had walked out the front door.

"That is why this is under investigation," he said.

State records show the Oliver House has a relatively clean file. But in 2001, under different owners and under the name Wendell House, the facility's staff was cited for not responding to door alarms when residents exited.

In the late 1990s, the same facility was dogged by problems under the name Rose Terrace. That home was fined for various food and drug violations and settled a $600,000 lawsuit when a woman died after she was attacked by another resident.

"This is a better facility," Rajani said. "This is a good facility."

State investigators said it's common when a facility gets in trouble, to avoid license revocation, for the owners to sell out so the same facility can get a fresh start. They were investigating if that happened in this case.

As for why the residents were not locked inside the facility, that is illegal under the fire code. The facility is only allowed to have door alarms and to make sure staff monitors those doors.

"There should have been someone at that desk that saw him (Raper) walk out that door," Pollard said. "Because if they had been doing their job, my dad would still be alive today."