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Demonstrators picket juvenile defendant accused of Union County elder abuse
Daily Item - 11/6/2023
Nov. 6—LEWISBURG — More than two dozen family members and supporters called out the names of Heritage Springs Memory Care patients as one of the alleged perpetrators accused of extensive elder abuse entered the Union County Courthouse on Monday.
The defendant was 17 years old when Buffalo Valley Regional Police said he and an adult co-worker allegedly took numerous nude and demeaning photographs and videos of 17 residents between December and April at the assisted living facility at 327 Farley Circle, Lewisburg. Due to being charged as a minor, the court proceedings are not open to the public and The Daily Item does not print the names of juvenile defendants unless charged as an adult.
The defendant, who turned 18 in August, arrived and left with Attorney Kyle Rude, of Williamsport. Family members and support held up signs and wore t-shirts with messages of "stop elder abuse" and "journey to justice" as the teenager was escorted into the courthouse by sheriff deputies, a point that upset many people.
"He gets protection," said Lynn Fiedler, the daughter of victim Alice Longenberger. "For five months he tortured my mother, he tortured them."
After the hearing, the group of demonstrators continued to shout victims' names at the defendant. Some followed him to his vehicle, yelling "shame" at him.
The defendant and Madison Laine Cox, 19, of Pinchtown Road, Montgomery, allegedly posed with patients in the shower or on the toilet, took pictures of patients who had defecated themselves or had fallen to the ground and took videos of themselves demeaning or harassing individuals, according to court documents filed by Buffalo Valley Regional Police.
They allegedly sent those records to each other, shared them on the phone app SnapChat, and showed them to classmates at a school, police said.
The victims range in age from 72 to 100 years old. The majority of people residing at Heritage Springs are in various stages of Alzheimer's disease or dementia, which limits or severely impedes their cognitive abilities, police said.
Supporter Kim Rigel said she worked nearly four decades in longtime care. It took decades to get laws and regulations to where they are, and this case makes it feel like backtracking, she said.
"There needs to be stricter regulations in place for personal care," she said. "If he had been terminated, he could have gone to other places."
Fiedler is advocating for stricter laws and regulations. She said she has been in contact with local legislators, has been setting up meetings and working toward widespread change.
Kathleen Ferster, of Selinsgrove, said Fiedler's advocacy is going to be "very far-reaching."
"She has the potential to make an impact across the nation," she said.
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