Local News

Sanford Family Finds Proof of Care-Giver Elder Abuse

Posted January 5, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

— A family in Sanford said they thought they had been sent an angel in April, 1996 when they hired a nurse's aide to take care of an elderly parent. Soon, however, unusual bruises started showing up on the elderly man's body, so they planted a hidden video camera and what they saw was devastating abuse.

That caregiver was in court Monday in Lee County.

The daughters of Franze Gonella say his caregiver, Sally Kelly, seemed loving, compassionate and honest when she was hired. They never imagined she could be capable of abusing their elderly father, but they documented the abuse with a hidden video camera, and the pictures don't lie.

Gonella's daughter Yvonne Whitaker says bruises began showing up on her father's body within two weeks of hiring Kelly.

The video tape shows repeated abusive incidents, such as Kelly throwing a pillow over Gonella's face, turning him roughly and striking him with her hands. Gonella's daughter Norma Jean Gunter says she was devastated when she saw the tape.

Kelly, 47, pleaded guilty to seven counts of felony abuse of and elder. She apologized and said she did what she did because she was overworked, tired and sick. Whitaker told WRAL-TV5'sAmanda Lambshe didn't believe a word of it.

Assistant Lee County District Attorney Marcie Barkley says this case was so successful because the family got involved.

Kelly was sentenced to 6 to 8 months in prison and 36 months of probation. By law as of January 1, criminal background checks must be done on all in-home nurses aides, but there is no law preventing anyone with a felony assault conviction from being hired by a rest home, nursing home or in-home health care group.

Photographer:Terry Cantrell