JSO: 'Differences' in 3 reported assaults at Jacksonville nursing home

Security changes made at Brookdale Atrium Way following concern

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A spokesperson with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Monday acknowledged three reported assaults at a Regency assisted-living facility, saying there are differences in each case including the description of the attacker.

In one case, a 94-year-old woman told the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office she was raped while living at Brookdale Atrium Way. According to investigators, DNA tests were performed, which show the woman, known only as Jane, was not assaulted by a nursing home staff member.

As stated in the police report, the attacker was wearing scrubs and took off when Jane screamed for help. Attorneys are planning to file a lawsuit and during the course of their investigation, they found two similar incidents were reported to JSO.

Since the attacks were reported, the attorney representing Jane and her family, Tom Edwards, said the Sheriff's Office never released a warning to the public.

"I'm surprised there has not been something done to protect the people in this community," Edwards said. "This is the third. Three instances in this community that we have discovered by combing through reports."

On Monday, Marlo Zakara, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, released a statement reading:

While these incidents occurred at the same location, there are differences in the cases including their suspect descriptions. Furthermore, the last incident you referenced did not involve the allegation of a sex crime.  The JSO Special Assault Unit is continuing to follow-up on leads connected to these cases. Regarding your question on DNA collection, our investigators collect DNA for multiple reasons, including to eliminate individuals from being considered a person of interest in a case.

Staff members at the facility made some safety changes. Over the weekend, Vernon Bender invited the News4Jax I-TEAM into his apartment where he said workers installed blocks on the windows, which keep them from fully opening, keeping intruders out.

Bender thinks the change could make things worse.

"I can't open this window. I tried it. It only goes so far," he said. "I consider this a fire exit."

According to Jacksonville Fire Rescue, the changes do not pose a fire hazard. The facility has a sprinkler system to extinguish fires, and records show it passed inspection.

In addition, the I-TEAM found no safety complaints made against the nursing home. A spokesperson for Brookdale Senior Living said several actions have been taken to increase security.

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