Attorney: Disturbing video shows abuse of 101-year-old man at Mount Pleasant facility
The curtains move. Fingers poke through the cloth toward the frail man confined to his hospital bed. Then arms reach out, grab and shake the man.
The room darkens, then the lights flicker back on. A shadowy figure emerges and kisses the man’s cheek.
Unable to escape, the 101-year-old man flails his arms. He grabs for a glass of water and dumps its contents onto the person who was supposed to be caring for him. He reaches for an electric razor, then for a phone, and tries to defend himself.
Those are the images that relatives said were captured by a hidden camera in Jesse Lee Wood’s room at Mount Pleasant Manor, which Wood had planned to call home for the rest of his life.
Filmed Thursday after Wood complained about his treatment, the video led to the arrest Monday of Deasmond Kimbrough, 44, a certified nursing assistant at the Bowman Road home.
Wood’s family and their attorney said the “mental and physical torture” he suffered emphasizes the need for loved ones to maintain a watchful eye on their elders’ care. They also hoped that an investigation would determine whether anyone else reported abuse at the facility.
“I just want to make sure that this is taken care of,” said Wood’s 58-year-old granddaughter, Julia Johnston of Mount Pleasant, “and nobody else has to suffer.”
Kimbrough faces a charge of knowing and willful abuse of a vulnerable adult. He remained jailed in lieu of a $100,000 bail, an amount Magistrate Linda Lombard set Tuesday because of what she called a “very serious allegation.”
It was the first arrest for the resident of Laurel Ridge Road in North Charleston, according to his attorney, John Thompson of Charleston. State Law Enforcement Division records were not available Tuesday to confirm the statement.
During the bond hearing, Thompson said his client has lived in the Charleston area for 12 years, maintained several jobs and “fully cooperated” with the authorities. Thompson offered no further comment.
The allegation left Wood’s family fighting to find a vacant room in another nursing home. He remained at Mount Pleasant Manor, a 132-bed facility, on Tuesday.
Bruce White, the facility’s administrator, declined to discuss details about the case and about Kimbrough, such as his employment status or how long he has worked there.
“We’re cooperating fully with the Mount Pleasant Police Department and their investigation,” White said. “We’re also conducting our own internal investigation.”
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which regulates adult-care facilities, had not been informed of the arrest by Tuesday afternoon, spokesman Jim Beasley said.
Wood moved into the building in September 2011 to live the rest of what relatives said had been a long and good life.
The father of one, grandfather of three and great-grandfather of four is a “good man, good father” and was a hard worker, Johnston said.
He taught himself to repair airplane radios and earned 35 cents an hour in his first job. He parlayed his expertise into two business ventures later in life, one fixing radios and another installing heating and air-conditioning systems.
Even in retirement, he remained “spry” and worked a job driving vehicles for a car dealership until he was 85 years old, Johnston said. When he was 98, she added, he rode a motorcycle for the last time.
His family’s attorney, Matt Yelverton of Charleston, said that what was caught on video was “akin to watching a horror movie.”
“But you can see in his eyes,” Yelverton said, “he was fighting it.”
Wood first told his granddaughter about the abuse several months ago, the attorney said, but Johnston did not want to believe him.
She questioned facility officials and was told that all was fine, Yelverton said.
But the accounts didn’t add up.
In chats that his granddaughter recorded, Wood said he had been hit and that detergent had been poured into his right eye. Johnston reported seeing her grandfather’s reddened eye a few weeks ago, according to an incident report.
As Wood’s power of attorney, Johnston hired a private investigator and approved the hidden camera, placed just to the right of Wood’s bed.
The device recorded for 24 hours late last week. And what relatives saw on the video — their first attempt to capture the abuse — appalled them.
The video shows Kimbrough flicking Wood’s nose, according to an arrest affidavit. At one point, Kimbrough reaches through a curtain, grabs Wood’s arm and shakes it, the document stated. Later, Kimbrough stands over the man and yells.
“He was desperately reaching for any item” to defend himself, Yelverton said. “It was obvious to him he was going to be attacked.”
Yelverton played portions of the video to members of the media Tuesday. Twice, a dark figure emerges from the curtains and kisses Wood’s cheeks.
Sound was not audible, but at some point, Yelverton said, Wood felt that his life was threatened.
“I’ve seen lots of disturbing things in my career, and I can tell you, this is up there,” the attorney said. “But if it wasn’t for the family’s action and the video, this would have gone unreported.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.