91-year-old woman dies after alleged assault at South Plainfield nursing home
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A grieving family wants answers after their loved one died following an assault inside a South Plainfield nursing home.
Police say the assault happened last Monday and that 91-year-old Clara Sutkowski died three days later.
Family members of Sutkowski tell News 12 New Jersey's Jim Murdoch they admitted Sutkowski to AristaCare at Cedar Oaks nursing home in South Plainfield to give her the 24-hour care they couldn't provide. Now, they say changes are needed.
Sutkowski's niece Nicole Kupko says the family has filed a complaint to the long-term care hotline and another incident report is being investigated. Kupko says the family has not gotten any answers from the nursing home.
Photos show Sutkowski after she was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick following the alleged assault. She died on Thursday, days after the photos were taken. A medical examiner's report said it was from “complications following blunt impact trauma to the head.”
“We are still in a state of shock,” Kupko said. “We’re still trying to figure out how this could have happened, and we’re just working through our feelings at the moment.”
“I couldn't believe that this could happen in such a facility that she's supposed to be cared for,” Kupko said.
Family members tell News 12 that Sutkowski walked back from the entertainment room to her room inside the AristaCare at Cedar Oaks facility, when a man, another resident standing in his doorway, grabbed her and brutally assaulted her in the hall. Kupko found out about the attack shortly after Clara reached the hospital.
Police say Angel Bermontiz, 81, struck Sutkowski and was still being combative when officers arrived.
According to the South Plainfield police report, Bermontiz was described as "crazy and strong" and "earlier struck another patient."
Kupko tells News 12 that nurses say Bermontiz suffers from dementia and that the family doesn't blame him for what happened.
“I don't think he knows what he did,” Kupko said. “I think that it is the responsibility of the facility that is currently housing him to know what the behavioral issues were and how it could have been avoided.”
“I want to see change. I want to see this facility hold accountability. I want the care to change. I want awareness from the state to see that there are problems inside these facilities that needs to be solved,” Kupko said.
AristaCare sent a statement to News 12 on Twitter that reads: "Our hearts grieve for the loss of our beloved resident, and we extend our deepest condolences to the family. We are in continuous contact & cooperating fully with all relevant investigating authorities."
No charges have been filed, but the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and the state have both opened investigations.