Local News

Sanford Family Finds Proof of Care-Giver Elder Abuse

Posted Updated
Norma Jean Gunter sits at the bedside of her father, 100-year-old Franze Gonella, the victim of abuse at the hands of his caregiver.
SANFORD — A family in Sanford said they thought they hadbeen sent an angel in April, 1996 when they hired a nurse's aide to takecare of an elderly parent. Soon, however, unusual bruises started showingup on the elderly man's body, so they planted a hidden video camera andwhat they saw was devastating abuse.

That caregiver was in court Monday in Lee County.

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

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

The video tape shows repeated abusive incidents, such as Kelly throwinga pillow over Gonella's face, turning him roughly and striking him withher hands. Gonella's daughter Norma Jean Gunter says she was devastatedwhen 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 ofit.

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

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

Photographer:Terry Cantrell

Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.