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Cuccinelli announces guilty verdict of group home owner responsible for abuse, neglect, and death of intellectually disabled victim

~Richard Wagoner was charged, found guilty after victim died from second- and third-degree burns~

MARTINSVILLE (May 7, 2012)-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced today that Richard C. Wagoner, Jr., was found guilty of abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult that resulted in death. A jury recommended that Wagoner be sentenced to five years' incarceration. Wagoner will be officially sentenced on October 18, 2012.

Wagoner owned and operated The Claye Corporation, a group home for adults in Martinsville.  The victim, Joseph Tuggle, 57, was an intellectually disabled adult suffering from Parkinson's disease, and received care in a group home operated by The Claye Corporation.

On February 8, 2011, after Mr. Tuggle suffered an episode of incontinence, direct care givers placed him in a bathtub while they cleaned the affected area of the house.  Mr. Tuggle was placed under a faucet running scalding water and suffered second- and third-degree burns on his legs, face, buttocks, and arm. Ten days later, Mr. Tuggle was found dead in his bed with scabbed burns. The medical examiner determined that Tuggle died from sepsis and pneumonia secondary to thermal injury. His death was ruled as a direct result of the injuries he sustained on February 8, 2011.

According to court testimony, Mr. Tuggle's care givers failed to call 911 or the victim's physician, instead claiming to have called the local hospital's emergency room. The care givers claimed to have received instructions to treat the burns with First Aid ointment. However, hospital policy does not allow personnel to give treatment information over the phone.

An investigation by the attorney general's Health Care Fraud and Elder Abuse section revealed that, following the burn incident, Tuggle's care givers had placed him in a van to transport him to the hospital. However, Wagoner ordered the van to return to the group home. Wagoner then examined Mr. Tuggle's injuries and decided to keep him at the group home instead of providing him with emergency medical treatment.

"Not only did Wagoner fail to properly prevent conditions in which an incapacitated and helpless patient could suffer from such abject neglect and abuse, he also explicitly and deliberately deprived Mr. Tuggle of the care he needed to survive these injuries," said Cuccinelli. "This kind of gruesome irresponsibility and depravity is despicable, and it's my hope that today's announcement will send a clear, stern message that this behavior simply will not be tolerated in Virginia."

The case was investigated by the Martinsville Police Department and the attorney general's Health Care Fraud and Elder Abuse Section.  The Elder Abuse section specializes in investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of incapacitated adults, employing both nurse investigators and criminal investigators to assist localities in determining the root cause of injuries and holding responsible persons accountable for their crimes. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Kevin C. Nunnally, and Chief Prosecutor David W. Tooker, also from the attorney general's Health Care Fraud and Elder Abuse section.  The Martinsville commonwealth attorney's office provided guidance and assistance in the Wagoner prosecution.    

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A copy of this news release may be found on the attorney general's web site here.

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