Court documents describe mold, bugs, rotten food at North Charleston group home
The conditions at a North Charleston assisted-living home that resulted in its operator’s arrest eight years ago were strikingly similar to those found during a raid of the facility this week and a new criminal neglect charge, according to court documents released Friday.
On April 5, when inspectors walked into the two houses that comprise the 20-bed Fair Havens Manor, mold clung to the interior. Rotten food was served to elderly residents. Medications were stored without the records to show which patients they belong to. Cockroaches were “crawling all over.”
Police and building officials found the filth so startling that they declared the buildings unsafe. The buildings were condemned.
And just as was reported in 2004, when Andrea Magwood came under fire the first time, at least one resident was severely malnourished and dehydrated.
In the most recent case, a 79-year-old man’s heart rate was so elevated, his blood so depleted of essential nutrients that he required hospitalization.
But the 68-year-old director’s attorney, Anthony O’Neill of Charleston, tells a different story, one of a dedicated churchgoer who has spent a lifetime in the Lowcountry caring for the people who have passed through her facilities. The accusations, O’Neill said, have been exaggerated by the authorities and sensationalized by the media.
Similar allegations of moldy food and insect infestations in past years, when the facility was called Genesis Community Care Home, resulted in $8,300 in fines for Magwood. That case also involved a malnourished 65-year-old woman.
State officials have refused to explain why Magwood was allowed to remain in business after the penalty.
“She’s a fine person, very fine person,” O’Neill said of his client. “A lot of people get arrested. ... She wasn’t convicted of a crime.”
Health and police detectives showed up Thursday morning on Magwood’s property at 1917 Cosgrove Ave., removed its 13 residents and escorted Magwood away in handcuffs. Two ombudsmen from the Trident Area Agency on Aging who investigated the original complaint at the group home declined Friday to comment on their observations.
But the new details came to light Friday after Magistrate Judge Linda Lombard viewed photos of the man, the only victim identified so far in the case. She called the images disturbing enough that a high bail was in order: $250,000.
Magwood, who now faces a felony count of neglecting a vulnerable adult, does not have arrests beyond the two relating to the home, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.
“I understand that there a dozen or more people that may be in the same situation,” Lombard said. “These are heinous allegations. I’ve seen the photographs. They are sadly very impressive.”
O’Neill argued after the hearing that the judge unfairly set a high amount. Because Magwood likely won’t flee from the place she has called home for decades, she should have been released on her own recognizance, he claimed.
“The pictures just showed a person in a bed,” he said of printouts that journalists were not privy to. “I don’t know what impressed the judge.”
Magwood lives on Greenmore Drive in West Ashley and is a longtime member of Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
The church’s rector, Father Ted Lewis, attended the hearing, wearing a collar and vouching for the caring demeanor he has detected from Magwood for years. But in the courtroom, he seemed shaken as he stood beside O’Neill and glanced at photos of the victim.
“I was shocked when I saw the pictures,” he said later, his voice cracking. “But that is not the Andrea I know.”
Magwood’s attorney refused to discuss the facts of the case and declined to provide any evidence against observations recorded by inspectors.
At Fair Havens Manor on Friday, signs stapled to the pink siding and white trim of the buildings ordered all comers to “keep out.”
A lone folding chair sat empty on the front porch. That’s where inspectors found the alleged victim earlier this month, “severely emaciated and unable to care for himself.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.