Destini Fenbert and Rachel Friesel - Putnam Sentinel
Destini Fenbert and Rachel Friesel

OTTAWA — Last week, two of three defendants facing charges related to the death of a resident at Hilty Memorial Home last January appeared in Putnam County Common Pleas Court. Destini M. Fenbert, 20, and Rachel R. Friesel, 36, were present last Wednesday, Aug. 1, for their joint final pretrial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, forgery, gross patient neglect and patient neglect.

During the pretrial, Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers offered both defendants a plea deal. Under the conditions of the deal, should Fenbert and Friesel enter pleas of guilty to fifth-degree felony forgery and gross patient neglect, a misdemeanor of the first degree, the State will drop the most serious of the charges, involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the third degree, as well as the charge of patient neglect, a second-degree misdemeanor. Neither of the defendants or their attorneys took immediate action with the deal and have until Wednesday, Aug. 22, to accept or decline.

Following a closed-door meeting between Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Schierloh, Lammers and defense attorney Robert Grzybowski on Friday, a final pretrial for Megan Schnipke, who is charged with forgery, gross patient neglect and patient neglect in the same case, was postponed until Thursday, Sept. 13.

The charges for all three defendants stem from the death of Phyllis Campbell on Jan. 7 of this year, at the time a 76-year-old resident of Hilty Memorial Home’s memory care unit. Campbell was found frozen to death in the facility’s courtyard at approximately 8:30 a.m., with a time of death established at between 2 and 3 a.m. According to an investigative report issued by the Ohio Department of Health and Human Services, both Fenbert and Friesel, who served as nurses aids at the nursing home, and Schnipke, a licensed practical nurse, were on duty the morning of Campbell’s death. The women recorded bed checks at 2 and 4 a.m. asserting Campbell was in her bed at the facility when she was, in fact, in the building’s courtyard where temperatures dropped below zero.

Steven Campbell, Phyllis Campbell’s son, was present for both hearings.

“The abuse in nursing homes has been going on too long,” Campbell said following Friday’s proceedings. “I’m hoping that this case with my mother can shine some light on the abuse that is going on and we can stop some of the abuse. It’s very sad to me, the whole picture, all these girls that are involved, and my mom. There are a lot of lives destroyed. It hurts me inside. But one thing I want to advocate more than anything is that no one in a nursing home ever has to worry about this type of a death again. We are here on this earth to take care of each other.”

On Friday, Lammers reported his office has maintained contact with the Campbell family throughout the investigation and preliminary hearings in the matter. While acknowledging “a couple” of family members expressed concerns about the plea deal, he stated the family, in consensus, support the offer.