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Estate of Indianapolis woman who died sues healthcare facility for wrongful death

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Posted at 7:46 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-21 07:16:48-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The estate of a woman who died at a healthcare facility earlier this year is now suing the company that operates it.

Patricia Newnum, 80 died in February at Homestead Healthcare Center, located in the 7400 block of Madison Avenue.

According to a wrongful death complaint filed Tuesday, the crime was "the inevitable results of the defendants' years of egregious mismanagement and conscious allowing of rampant criminality, assaults, and alcohol/drug abuse to be omnipresent at Homestead Healthcare Center."

Dwayne Freeman, 60, of Indianapolis has been formally charged with murder and rape in Newnum's death. Freeman was also a resident at Homestead, according to IMPD.

The complaint says Newnum could not move on her own and was "completely incapable" of protecting herself from Freeman. It goes on to say the conduct of each CommuniCare defendant amounted to "willful and/or wanton misconduct." Communicare operates Homestead.

According to the probable cause affidavit, on the day of Newnum's death, a Homestead employee could smell alcohol on Freeman's breath and Freeman grabbed a liquor bottle from the end of Newnum's bed.

"At the time Patricia Newnum was sexually assaulted, raped, and murdered, the CommuniCare Defendants either did not have or did not implement policies to prevent intoxication of residents," the complaint said.

The complaint also mentions pre-death loss of consortium, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Details from the 28-page lawsuit show Freeman allegedly assaulted and smothered Newnum with a pillow around 5 a.m. on Feb. 2.

According to the lawsuit, an employee found the 60-year-old on top of Newnum holding a pillow over her face.

An autopsy showed Newnum's cause of death was asphyxiation by smothering.

The attorneys representing the family of Newnum place blame on Homestead.

WRTV spoke with a woman whose brother lived in the Homestead facility earlier this year.

"I wouldn't suggest anybody be here," she said.

So far this year, the Indiana Department of Health has found the nursing home in violation of seven complaints. One of those was for unlocked and unattended medication carts.

Records show since 2019 IMPD has responded at least 65 times to Homestead. Two of those cases were for rape investigations another for molestation.

Police records also show investigators were called to Homestead Healthcare Center for a report of a staff member slapping a resident in 2021 and for at least three stolen medication investigations.

As for the case of Freeman, a spokesperson for CommuniCare told WRTV in an email statement, "We continue to be saddened for the family’s loss however it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”

Online court records show a pretrial conference for Freeman is scheduled for July 6.