A former male nursing assistant at Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis pleaded guilty Monday to raping an 83-year-old woman who suffered from severe dementia and Alzheimer's disease — the latest in a recent surge of abuse cases involving elderly residents at nursing homes across the state.
Early in the morning of Dec. 18, 2014, George Sumo Kpingbah, 77, of Brooklyn Center, was seen by a witness moving in a "back and forth, thrusting motion" while standing at the edge of the elderly woman's bed, according to a state investigative report. The witness, a nurse at Walker Methodist immediately contacted the night supervisor, who removed Kpingbah from the floor and called police. Kpingbah was arrested and charged with felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
At a Hennepin County District Court hearing Monday morning, Kpingbah stood motionless, hands folded, as his court-appointed attorney told him he could face up to four years in prison with the guilty plea. Family members of the elderly rape survivor held hands in the front row as Kpingbah calmly nodded and said, "yes," when asked to confirm that he inserted his penis in the woman's vaginal area.
In an unusual settlement to a separate lawsuit, reached moments before he pleaded guilty Monday, Kpingbah agreed to pay $15 million to the estate of the rape survivor if he ever is convicted again of criminal sexual conduct in any other case, or is ever found liable again for the abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult. Kpingbah also agreed to donate $2,000 to the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) as part of the civil settlement.
The threat of a giant payment is meant to deter Kpingbah from committing another sex assault once he completes his prison sentence, attorneys said.
A similar settlement was reached early last year in the case of a young male caregiver who drugged and raped an 89-year-old woman at a senior home in Hermantown, in northern Minnesota.
Although substantiated cases of rape in Minnesota senior homes are rare, the state has seen a sharp increase in allegations of abuse and neglect.
The number of maltreatment complaints received by the state nearly doubled between 2010 and 2013, from 283 to 553, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, which regulates nursing homes.
Over that period, the state has investigated and substantiated at least nine incidents of sexual abuse involving residents at nursing homes, state records show.
"What we had here was a woman suffering from extreme dementia — a disease that is taking away her mind — and her last shred of dignity was stripped away by this guy," said Mark Kosieradzki, a Plymouth lawyer representing the rape survivor through her daughter, who is also her guardian. "We can't turn back the clock on what happened here, but we can make a loud enough statement so that other people will think twice about doing this."
According to a criminal complaint, a nurse was making her rounds at Walker Methodist when she saw Kpingbah standing between the woman's legs with the patient's incontinence pad removed.
The nurse then saw Kpingbah "pumping his groin area in-and-out of the victim's legs" for about 5 to 10 seconds. Once Kpingbah became aware that another person was in the room, he quickly moved away from the woman and placed her legs back on the bed, a state investigation found.
The rape survivor, who is identified only as "S.F." in court documents, was sent to Hennepin County Medical Center. While there, medications for sexually transmitted diseases had to be administered to the woman intravenously, because her dementia prevented her from swallowing safely.
A day after the rape, the elderly woman repeatedly pointed at her pelvic area and mumbled; and then cried after she was told that she was safe and her assailant was in jail, according to court documents.
The elderly woman's attempt to communicate the rape, by pointing and mumbling, was evidence that she suffered emotional and psychological trauma despite her inability to articulate her thoughts, according to an affidavit from Dr. Ann Burgess, a psychiatric nurse and professor of mental health nursing at Boston College who has researched sexual assaults and dementia patients.
The state Department of Health investigated the rape in December, and determined that Kpingbah, and not Walker Methodist, was responsible.
The agency noted that Kpingbah had completed a course on preventing and reporting abuse; and that staffing the night of the rape included a nurse and two nursing assistants, the usual amount of staff for the unit. Walker Methodist referred questions about the case to an outside public relations specialist, who declined to comment.
A sentencing hearing for Kpingbah has been scheduled at Hennepin County District Court for Nov. 12th.