Veteran dies after fight at nursing home

Medical examiner works to determine cause of 71-year-old's death

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A veteran died after an attack at a nursing home and rehabilitation center in St. Johns County, according to family.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said a 71-year-old patient died after getting into a fight last week with another patient, an 84-year-old man, at the St. Augustine Health and Rehabilitation Center off State Road 207. Deputies said it's uncertain who started it.

The 71-year-old was identified as Daniel Henson, a veteran, by Mary Henson, his older sister in Colorado.

Mary Henson told News4Jax by phone Wednesday that her brother, who had been paralyzed for years, was attacked April 9 by his roommate at the nursing home.

"I had a call on April 9 at 2:30 a.m. from the nurse, saying my brother had been taken to Flagler Hospital because of a brutal, savage beating from a male roommate," Mary Henson said.

She said Daniel Henson was taken to a hospital and then hospice care, where he died Sunday morning.

Daniel Henson had a stroke 25 years ago and had been living in a nurse home since then, Mary Henson said.

"He had some use of his left arm, but the rest of him was totally paralyzed and had been for years," she said. "My brother was not able to get out of bed or move or anything except for his left arm."

Mary Henson is shocked and saddened, saying she thought her younger brother was safe at the nursing home. She said she wants "justice for my brother's death" and answers, questioning whether staff should have been watching more closely so that fight involving Daniel Henson and his roommate did not happen.

"I don’t know because they have not given me information," Mary Henson said. "But if they knew this guy had a criminal past or some kind of mental instability, I think they should have."

According to News4Jax I-TEAM sources with knowledge of the investigation, Daniel Henson had a fractured skull, broken bones and severe injuries to his eyes. The sources described the attack as "horrific" and "sickening."

"I understand they do rounds every two hours and they were getting ready to do rounds and heard my brother screaming for his life," Mary Henson said.

Sources said the other patient involved has been transferred to another facility in Jacksonville.

Deputies are investigating the death. They said an autopsy is pending from the medical examiner, who will try to determine if the 71-year-old died from an existing condition or from injuries suffered in the fight.

News4Jax asked the center for comment. When News4Jax went there Tuesday and Wednesday, News4Jax was turned away by staff both times. 

The I-TEAM uncovered state and federal records showing a history of citations and thousands of dollars in fines against the facility over the years. 

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

While growing up in Jacksonville, Kristen dreaming of being a reporter at Channel 4. For the last several years, that's been my reality.