A 77-year-old man was found dead early Monday morning after going missing in frigid weather overnight from an assisted-living facility near Stillwater.
According to police, the staff at Boutwells Landing Senior Living in Oak Park Heights noticed that the man, identified as Thomas LeCloux, was missing from his apartment at 11 p.m. Sunday when they went to assist him into bed.
Police were notified about two hours later, and local firefighters, surrounding police agencies and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter launched a search of the area around the facility.
LeCloux was found dead at 3 a.m. on a walking path near a shopping area about a half-mile north of Boutwells Landing. The cause of death is being investigated by Oak Park Heights police.
"The family and friends of Mr. LeCloux are in our thoughts and prayers today," said Wendy Kingbay, campus administrator at Boutwells Landing, in a statement.
Deaths of people who leave senior-care facilities undetected, also called "elopement," are not uncommon. In 2013, a 74-year-old woman with dementia, Dale Gerard, was found nine months after she walked out of Wesley Residence, an assisted-living facility in Duluth. According to a wrongful-death lawsuit, Gerard's "mummified" body was found trapped under a chain-link fence near Interstate 35W. The facility had an alarm system, but Gerard used a door not linked to the system, the lawsuit said.
Many of these deaths could be prevented by basic precautions such as requiring that elderly residents "check out" when they leave, said Mark Kosieradzki, a Plymouth attorney who specializes in cases of elder neglect. "If someone is gone at 11 at night from an assisted-living facility, it's vitally important to know why," he said. "The results of not knowing can be catastrophic."
A spokeswoman for Boutwells Landing said the complex asks that independent and assisted-living residents sign out when they leave, but it's up to the residents whether they comply with this request. LeCloux was free to come and go as he wished, the spokeswoman said. Citing privacy concerns, the facility would not disclose whether LeCloux had a diagnosis of dementia.
Boutwells Landing is a large, 490-unit senior housing project with independent apartments, townhouses and memory care units on a 100-acre campus. The complex is owned and managed by Roseville-based Presbyterian Homes & Services, which has 42 other senior living communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
The Minnesota Department of Health, which investigates deaths at senior-care sites if abuse or neglect is suspected, declined to comment on whether it is investigating LeCloux's death.