Destini Fenbert, Megan Schnipke, and Rachel Friesel - Putnam Sentinel
Destini Fenbert, Megan Schnipke, and Rachel Friesel.

OTTAWA — Three women facing multiple charges related to the death of a patient at Hilty Memorial Home last January were arraigned in Putnam County Common Pleas Court last week.

On Jan. 7, Phyllis Campbell, a resident in memory care at the Pandora facility, was found dead in the home’s courtyard shortly after 8:30 a.m. A subsequent investigation by the Pandora Police Department, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and Putnam County Coroner Dr. Anne Horstman determined Campbell died of hypothermia some time between 1 and 2 a.m.

According to a report issued by the Ohio Department of Health, Campbell passed through a propped-open door in the facility’s dining room some time after 12:35 a.m. and left the building through an exit leading into the courtyard. While that door was alarmed and Campbell wore a wander guard unit, the proximity of which triggers the alarm, the audible alert shut off after 90 seconds and was either never heard, or the system failed to function adequately. Officials testing similar wander guards at the facility discovered they did not always trigger the alarm.

The report additionally noted Campbell exited the building at approximately 12:35 a.m. Campbell’s body wasn’t discovered until roughly eight hours later, this despite bed checks at 2 and 4 a.m. documenting Campbell’s presence inside the facility. It wasn’t until approximately 8:20 a.m. that an aide discovered Campbell’s absence.

On Thursday, May 3, a Putnam County grand jury indicted Destini M. Fenbert, 20, and Rachel R. Friesel, 36, both employed as state tested nurses aides and both of Pandora, were each indicted on four counts, including two felony charges: involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the third degree; and forgery, a fifth-degree felony. Fenbert and Friesel were also charged with gross patient neglect, a first-degree misdemeanor; and patient neglect, a misdemeanor of the second degree. The grand jury also charged Megan E. Schnipke, 31, of Columbus Grove, who was employed as a licensed practical nurse at Hilty Home at the time of the incident. The three charges against Schnipke include forgery, a felony of the fifth degree; gross patient neglect, a first-degree misdemeanor; and patient neglect, a misdemeanor of the second degree.

On Monday, May 14, Schnipke, through her attorney Robert Grzybowski, entered a plea of not guilty to all charges. On Wednesday, May 16, Fenbert and Friesel followed suit, entering not guilty pleas to all charges through their attorneys, Drew Mihalik and Gary Smith, respectively.

After consulting with the defense attorneys and Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lammers, Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Schierloh approved own recognizance bonds for all three, stipulating that none were to have any contact with the family of the victim or with Hilty Memorial Home personnel. All three were further ordered to appear at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office for fingerprinting.

Pretrials for all three defendants were set for Wednesday, June 6.