A former staffer at a Baltimore care facility has pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and first-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult for her role in the assault and subsequent death of 75-year-old Ellsworth Johnson-Bey.
Obiageriaku Jane Iheanacho was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with all but seven years suspended.
Upon release, Iheanacho will be placed on five years of supervised probation during which she will be prohibited from caring for vulnerable adults, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Schiffer said, at a sentencing hearing on Monday.
“I am sorry for my actions. It was not intentional,” Iheanacho said in court, apologizing to the family of Johnson-Bey, a community activist widely known as “Brother Bey.”
Although Iheanacho suggested that her actions on May 15, 2022 were accidental, prosecutors said Iheanacho knowingly acted in an aggressive and callous manner.
The incident was caught on video at the Autumn Lake Post Acute Care Center, at 5009 Frankford Avenue, where Iheanacho was working as a geriatric nursing assistant, and Johnson-Bey was receiving dementia care.
Prosecutors said the video showed Iheanacho walking up to and hitting Johnson-Bey, forcing him against a wall and pushing him.
The footage showed Johnson-Bey fall to the floor, and Iheanacho did not render aid, but was seen down the hall, fixing her hair.
Pneumonia, Blood Clots and Covid
After the incident, Johnson-Bey was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a left hip fracture, treated and returned to the facility a few weeks later.
Despite attempts made at physical therapy, Johnson-Bey never got out of bed again.
“He eventually contracted pneumonia, developed blood clots in his lungs due to his inactivity and was diagnosed with Covid-19,” according to lawyers from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office who prosecuted the case.
Johnson-Bey’s daughter, speaking with The Brew in August, said her father had been able to walk and speak normally before the incident, but declined rapidly afterwards, becoming unable to recognize family members or feed himself.
He died at Good Samaritan Hospital on September 5, 2022.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled that Johnson-Bey’s death was a homicide caused by “blunt force trauma.”
On January 19, Baltimore City Police charged Iheanacho with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and vulnerable adult abuse leading to physical injury.
In a release announcing the plea and sentencing, Attorney General Anthony Brown called Johnson-Bey’s death “incredibly tragic.”
His office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the authority to investigate and prosecute vulnerable adult abuse and neglect by healthcare providers in Maryland.
“As always, our thoughts are with his surviving relatives who continue to suffer the heartbreaking loss of their loved one,” Brown said.
“Although the events leading up to Mr. Johnson-Bey’s death can never be undone, it is our hope that the defendant’s plea and sentencing in this case will bring some closure to those grieving.”